Rogue UK Firm’s Quest for $9.6b Nigerian Windfall

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Ring true with Yemi Adebowale; Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521

Justice Christopher Butcher of a Commercial Court in Britain is yet to give any permission to British firm, P&ID, to seize assets of the Nigerian government abroad. Unfortunately, the rogue firm, which won a ridiculous $6.597 billion (now $9.6 billion) arbitration award against the federal government, has been pushing a narrative that it has approval to seize Nigerian assets. This is aimed at stampeding the government and people of Nigeria. The last paragraph of Justice Butcher’s judgement is explicit. He stated: “I am prepared to make an order enforcing the final award in the same manner as a judgment or order of this court, to the same effect. I will receive submissions from the parties as to the precise form of order appropriate.”

While P&ID is misleading the judiciary in Britain in a desperate attempt to grab billions of Dollars it did not work for, back in Nigeria, it has recruited a Lagos public relations firm, to intimidate Nigerians and the Nigerian government, with unending threats to seize the country’s assets abroad. In the last three weeks, the shameless Public Relations firm has been pushing out false stories about the P&ID case/judgement. This shows how desperate P&ID and its allies are. This same crop of dubious Nigerians that signed a contract, which did not protect this country in case P&ID failed to deliver, are again working for the firm to get billions of Dollars for job not done. All standard international contracts provide for contingent liabilities on both parties. This was not the case with the illegal P&ID deal struck by these brazen Nigerians in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, headed then by the late Rilwanu Lukman.

Few days back, P&ID, registered in British Virgin Islands, pushed out yet another story that it had instructed its lawyers to identify Nigeria’s assets that could be targeted to recover the bogus judgement debt. It said it was focusing on identifying Nigeria’s assets that could be seized in the process of enforcing the court judgment. The case is still at the high court level and this frantic firm is already talking about seizing Nigerian naval vessels and oil cargoes. It said: “P&ID will look to seize Nigeria’s assets in the UK to enforce the award as soon as possible. The company’s current focus is vigorously enforcing the award.” Haba! Enforcing which award? Who gave them the authority to enforce the award in a case that is still at the High Court level?

I am happy that the Nigerian government has moved very fast to challenge the evil machinations of P&ID. This is the time to show patriotism. The Attorney General of the Federation, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, must assemble our legal egg heads to challenge this evil called P&ID.

Let’s critically look at the contract to understand why I often refer to P&ID as a rogue company. The failed Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA), which P&ID wants to use to fleece the Nigerian government, was signed in 2010 by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. The NNPC was to supply wet gas to P&ID for processing into lean gas for power generation, for a period of 20 years.

According to the GSPA, P&ID was to build two or more plants for the processing of the wet gas into lean gas at no cost to the government since it would be compensated from the proceeds. However, the NNPC failed to build the pipeline to supply gas to the company. P&ID also failed to construct the plant for processing the wet gas. So, the two parties failed to actualise their sides of the agreement. In any case, why would the NNPC pipe wet gas to a non-existing processing plant? P&ID did not even secure a site for the construction of the processing plant, not to talk of constructing a plant. It is simple logic. A processing plant must be on ground before we can start talking about piping wet gas to the place. Perhaps, the promoters of P&ID want the NNPC to pipe the wet gas into their mouths. These are evidently exploitative people. There was no intention to set up any plant in Nigeria. It was just a game to fleece Nigeria, using the flaws in the illegitimate contract.

On August 22, 2012, the British firm filed for arbitration. It accused the federal government of repudiating the contract it entered into with the company. This P&ID contract is a nullity because it was never approved by Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council. Just as the Buhari government had persistently argued, the agreement was on various grounds invalid, subsequently frustrated, varied or discharged by force majeure. P&ID failed to set up a processing plant and turns around to say that the petroleum ministry failed to pipe wet gas to them. Evidently, P&ID did not achieve its own part of the agreement and cannot, therefore, be making dubious claims on Nigeria. P&ID did not construct any gas processing facility at Adiabo, Odukpani LGA, Cross River State, as agreed. Why would an arbitration panel approve an award for the full value of what P&ID could have gained when the firm did not construct or invest anything? It is even more painful that the British commercial court concurred. A court in the US looked at this same case and threw out the ludicrous enforcement request of P&ID.

How would an arbitration tribunal rule that Nigeria was liable for the failure of the contract and should pay the British firm $6.597 billion as the profit that the company would have made in the 20 years tenure of the contract? It also ruled that this portfolio firm should be paid seven per cent interest until the award was settled. This is preposterous. How certain is it that this voodoo firm called P&ID would make unending profit for 20 years? This little-known engineering and project management company misled the British court to convert the arbitration award into a court judgment.

It is germane to note that P&ID admitted at the arbitration tribunal that it invested just about $40 million on the project, during about two years sojourn in Nigeria. That in itself is dubious, considering the fact that the firm did not put a single block on ground in any site. The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele also confirmed that there was no evidence of such capital importation by P&ID. He declared: “As a foreign company, if you are investing either in a contract or a project in Nigeria, there are various options you will adopt in bringing in your investment. If you are bringing in capital, in which case you are bringing in the money, you will fill Form A and you will also collect a certificate of capital importation. If you are bringing in machine or assets to execute your contract, then in this case, you will fill Form M and also collect a certificate of capital importation to prove that you actually brought in money. We have gone through our records; we do not have any information in our records to show that this company brought in one cent into this country.”

Notwithstanding, to be awarded a $6.597 billion compensation for an unproven $40 million loss is crazy. It is now the largest arbitration awards in global history. Already, an American hedge fund company, VR Capital Group, which had knowledge of the matter, had in March this year, bought 25 per cent stake in P&ID, hoping that the moves to fleece Nigeria succeed and it would benefit.

Nigeria should move very fast on legal and non-legal actions to stop the evil bid of P&ID. The dubious firm instituted recognition and enforcement proceedings in Britain and in the United States. The court in the US agreed with Nigeria’s objection but the one in UK dismissed our objection. Nigeria is already processing an appeal to the UK ruling. We must handle this case with utmost seriousness. This country was not diligently defended at the arbitration and British Commercial Court levels. For me, nothing stops the federal government from moving against P&ID’s evil plot in a Nigerian court. Those handling this case for Nigeria should work on this.

The Ruins of Gubio, Magumeri

The few people remaining in Gubio and Magumeri local government areas of Borno State are still counting their losses after the gruesome attacks by Boko Haram last week. The tears of many may never dry. The terrorists operated in the communities for hours without resistance, killing dozens of people while many others are still unaccounted for. Scores of homes and government offices were destroyed. In Magumeri, the terrorists, after taking over control, razed the council’s secretariat, other public structures and residential houses, including that of the Member representing Gubio, Magumeri and Kaga Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Usman Zannah.

Few weeks back, Boko Haram struck in Gajiram, the headquarters of Ngazai Local Government Area of the state, killing scores of innocent Nigerians. They looted houses and shops, carted away foodstuffs and livestock, leaving residents in tears. Several vehicles at the local government secretariat were burnt.

While the destruction of Gajiram, Gubio and Magumeri lasted, the military did not respond to the distress messages sent to them. I heard Governor Babagana Zulum blaming the failure of security agents to respond to the invasion on the new Super Camp tactic of the military. This governor has evidently shown his naivety about factors responsible for the inability of the military to curb Boko Haram attacks. Ferocious attacks on communities in Borno State have persisted with or without Super Camp. So, it’s not about the newly introduced war tactic. The Nigerian military as presently constituted, lacks the capacity to curb or end Boko Haram assaults. This is why the killings of thousands of civilians and soldiers by the terrorists have occurred. It is persisting because this government has refused to embrace pragmatic steps.

The war against Boko Haram is beyond the capabilities of our gallant soldiers. The leaders of the military have failed the soldiers on the war front by denying them quality equipment and welfare. This is why they are struggling to contain the rebels. It is so depressing hearing stories of soldiers on the war front being owed field allowances. Technology, quality equipment and quality manpower will be needed to destroy Boko Haram. Our military lacks these. All the lies that the terrorists had been decapitated are falling like a pack of cards, with security agents struggling to hold on to areas under their control. The way forward is to engage mercenaries for this war against Boko Haram.

The strategy for getting result against Boko Haram is largely through aerial power. It requires quality fighter jets, quality armoured attack helicopters, technology, intelligence and quality manpower. Our military lacks the capacity for these. We must hire mercenaries to finish this war. This is the way forward if President Buhari is genuinely interested in ending this fratricidal conflict. The leadership of the military and that of the country have evidently failed the people of Borno State. Buhari must take concrete actions as listed above if he is interested in redeeming his image on this war.

‘Come and Chop’ Ministers

The partying in Abuja which followed the inauguration of ministers by President Buhari last week left me dejected. Several of the ministers had lavish receptions and gigs to celebrate their selections. I watched clips from the gigs for some of them and became convinced that many see the appointments as “come and chop” opportunity. If these appointees are really interested in service to the people, they won’t go about celebrating. Any minister that is concerned about the enormity of the task ahead and keen about making an impact won’t go about celebrating. He would rather spend quality time thinking about how to tackle the task. I am not sorry to say that a large number of these ministers are just after their stomachs. They see their appointments as invitation to a buffet instead of service to the country. We are in a “one chance” bus.