A team of Nigerian government officials will be in the UK to contest a hefty $9.6bn damages award made to an Irish gas supply firm in August this year by a London commercial court. The order was in respect of a 2010 contract Process & Industrial Development Ltd claimed to have signed with the Nigerian federal government to build, “free of charge”, a “state-of-the-art gas processing plant” in Calabar, Cross River state. In return, P&ID would sell 15% of by-products of the wet natural gas Nigeria would supply to the plant on the international market.
However, in 2012, the agreement collapsed and P&ID blamed the Nigerian government for that. It first went to a tribunal which in 2017 entered a judgment against the federal government of Nigeria for failure to meet its contractual obligations. It said Nigeria must pay $6.6bn to P&ID. The commercial court confirmed the order on Aug. 16 2019. Not only that, it raised the amount to $9.6b, including revenues the company would have earned over a 20-year period. But the court did not grant P&ID’s demand that it could seize Nigeria’s assets worth the amount anywhere in the world. It insisted on taking the submission of Nigeria and fixed Sept. 26 for that.
The federal government delegation is led by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami. The other members are the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu, and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele. Others are the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
Speaking on the Sept. 26 court appearance, Sunday, before flying out, Malami said: “We are going to the British court to argue that they (P&ID) should not be granted the power to attach the assets. The only thing that can be of help to Nigeria in stopping the enforcement of the entire award is proof of corrupt practices as the basis for the arbitral award.
“So, we called for an investigation as to the relationship between the local partners component and the international partners component. And arising from the proof of evidence that we have in support of the charges that were filed by the EFCC, there is evidence that money changed hands between international partners and officials of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources influencing things that had to do with the agreement, influencing the formation of the agreement, influencing what clauses should go into the agreement, influencing the officials to ensure the by-passing of the vetting by the Federal Ministry of Justice, influencing the by-passing of the presentation of the agreement before the Federal Executive Council.
“We have at our disposal proof that they sent money to Nigerian officials, and in return for the money that was sent to Nigerian officials, there was compromise all through the creation of a fraudulent and deceitful agreement. Some of them have now pleaded guilty. So we are now armed with an investigation report establishing corrupt practices. We are now armed with charges pending before the court arising from the fraudulent agreement.”
We commend the Buhari administration for taking the bull by the horns in this very serious matter. The speed and thoroughness of the inquiry is unprecedented. It is exactly what we urged in our editorial of Sept. 5 on the issue after it came to public light. Now that we have the evidence that corruption underlined the whole deal and P&ID was neck-deep in it, let the court and the whole world see that Nigeria is the victim, not P&ID.