Ejiofor Alike with agency reports
A firm incorporated in the British Virgin Islands will today ask a British court for the right to seize up to $9 billion of Nigerian government assets over an aborted gas project.
Reuters reported that the request is part of a long-running saga over a 2010 deal in which the federal government agreed to supply gas to a processing plant in Calabar, Cross River State, that Process and Industrial Developments Ltd (P&ID) – a little-known firm founded by two Irish business men specifically for the project – would build and run.
P&ID had won a $6.6 billion award at arbitration, based on what it could have earned during the 20-year agreement.
The firm is now claiming that the total owed has ballooned to $9 billon because of interest accrued since 2013.
The federal government has tried to nullify the award, saying it was not subject to international arbitration but British courts rejected the argument.
P&ID is now asking the Commercial Court in London to convert the arbitration into a judgment, which would allow them to try to seize international assets.
Reuters quoted a source close to President Muhammadu Buhari as saying they were fully aware of the matter and the government “is not sleeping.”
The source added that the federal government was optimistic the matter could be resolved in the courts.
There are also proceedings pending at a US District Court in Washington, D.C.
Officials contacted by Reuters said the lack of an attorney general or petroleum minister made it difficult for anyone to comment on the record.
While assets that are used for diplomatic purposes – such as the Nigerian High Commission building in central London – were off the table, commercial assets were up for grabs.
In 2008, a UK court ruled that proceeds of oil sales from Chad held in an international account intended to repay World Bank loans were fair game for seizure.
Experts also said that the involvement of hedge fund VR Group, which has a stake in P&ID, signaled that it is unlikely to let the issue drop.