Power in Unity of Purpose

0

Obinna Chima writes on efforts by the federal government to set aside a $9.6 billion judgement debt against the country

.

It is a common knowledge that wherever there is unity of purpose, there is likely going to be more strength in action and under such atmosphere, it is always easier for a group to achieve their target.

Evidently, even though what the English High Court granted the Nigerian government last week was a temporary reprieve from having to pay $9.6 billion in compensation to Process and Industrial Developments (P&ID), activities of the government officials in the past few weeks showed their commitment towards setting aside the entire judgement debt.

During the hearing in London, Justice Butcher said the firm set up by two Irish businessmen would not be able to start seizing Nigerian state assets to enforce the arbitration award.

However, while granting the Nigerian government the right to appeal against the award, the court said the country would have to pay a security of $200 million within the next 60 days.

Speaking on the coordination among the government officials involved in the matter, a source who expressed confidence that the country would be able to vacate the earlier judgement, praised the government officials that were in London.

The source who pleaded to remain anonymous, explained: “It is distinction on how the case went before. Then, some Nigerians even sabotaged it, some people took bribe and some even neglected the case. But, this is one of the benefits of people coming together with patriotism and focus.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, the Minister of Information, the Attorney General of the Federation, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Police and every other agency that has something to do with this, were involved.
“The strategy was coordinated such that everybody who had contact in London, pulled in those contracts. We also went to all the media houses that matter in London. So, that was how we got the result that we got.”

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, had signified the intention of the federal government to head to the UK Appeal Court shortly after the UK Commercial Court ordered a stay of execution of the $9.6 billion claim.
Malami said besides seeking to quash the company’s bid to make any claim, Nigeria would also consider the possibility of challenging the legality of the $200 million security deposit within the 60-day window.
P&ID secured the damages against Nigeria following a failed Gas Supply Project Agreement (GSPA) contract between it and the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources.

But Malami said: “Leave to appeal has been granted. Stay of execution is also granted subject to payment of $200m security payment to court pending the determination of the appeal the leave for which has been granted by the commercial court.

“The steps we will consider are to study the ruling and act in a way beneficial to the interest of the nation.
“We will study the court rulings, exercise the right of appeal and consider the legal options available at our disposal as it relates to the payment of $200m in view of the 60 days window stipulated by the court.”

Malami, who admitted that he was pleased with the judgment, said: “I see this as a positive resolution that constitutes an important step in the government‘s efforts to defend itself in a fair and just process.

“We look forward to challenging the UK Commercial Court’s recognition of the tribunal’s decision in the UK Court of Appeals, uncovering P&lD’s outrageous approach for
what it is: a sham based on fraudulent and criminal activity developed to profit from a developing country.”

FG’s Position
The federal government delegation in a note obtained by THISDAY, stated that serving the Nigerian people, protecting their best interest, strengthening the nation’s economic development and supporting growth remains the government’s priority.
They further stated in the note that the government was reviewing its internal procedures and assessing processes that would ensure that such a matter does not happen again.

“The government commissioned an investigation into P&ID and the circumstances surrounding the initial contract agreement. The findings by the EFCC raises concerns about how the initial agreement was made and provided evidence in support of 11 charges against individuals involved in P&ID.

“All proposed gas projects are required to go through a central review point, headed by the Minister of State. Companies looking to operate in gas, are required to seek and be granted approval by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), as well as required to go through formal procurement processes and obtain a petroleum licence.

“P&ID did not follow the process as is required for any business looking to operate in gas as was proven in the Nigerian courts; P&ID was only granted the contract for this gas project due to criminal means including, corruption and money laundering.

“Fighting corruption by introducing robust policy and procedures in the current administration has been a priority to President Buhari, and he has successfully introduced a number of processes to ensure the government is as transparent as it can be.

“We want to assure the Nigerian people, as well as foreign investors, that the government is taking this matter seriously and has taken a number of steps to defend itself in the courts,” the government explained in the statement.

The Central Bank of Nigeria Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said it was unfortunate, that such an incident happened.
“I think the lesson is that for us, it is an eye-opener and I am very happy at the way the government and the president are taking this.

“This really concerns all of us and that is why this time all hands are on the deck to ensure that we destroy the foundation of this fraudulent transaction, to ensure that in the future, it doesn’t happen again.

“That was why the attorney general is here; the Minister of Information and Culture is here; the Inspector General of Police is here, the Chairman of the EFCC is here, and I also here.
“We consulted and met different key persons as to the best option to adopt, not just the arbitral award, but in terms of other strategies to deal with this matter,” he added.

Emefiele, had described the contract leading to the judgment as a “fraudulent contract” between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and P&ID.
Emefiele noted that, contrary to its claims in the media, the foreign firm did not invest any money on the contract in Nigeria.

He said, “We have heard and also read in some media that P&ID or the contractor in this case had mentioned that it had invested close to about $40m in the project. On our part as the Central Bank of Nigeria, we note that P&ID is a foreign company.
“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.

“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.”

On his part, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, who was part of the Nigerian delegation to the court session last week, called for a probe of Justice Christopher Butcher of the London Commercial Court.
He said the court was so desperate to enforce the arbitral award.

Magu, who expressed loss of confidence in the British commercial court, said Nigeria would take the matter up at the diplomatic level.
He said: “The entire transaction is predicated on fraud; complete fraud and irregularities by people trying to exploit the weakness in the system to their advantage. I am also worried that the commercial court that gave the judgment here on the award is so desperate on the enforcement of the judgment itself. That shows clearly that we do not have confidence in the commercial court because they seem to have interest in making sure they enforce it; otherwise they should give us a chance for us to come in with our complaint.

“P&ID does not even exist in Nigeria. It is a shell company and as far as I am concerned, the directors we have committed so far are the witnesses to the agreement and also to the MoU. The main actors who actually signed the MoU and the agreement incidentally are all dead, that is (Michael) Quinn and Lukman (former Nigerian Minister of Petroleum Resources). There is something sneakier to the whole deal.
“We would have to approach at government or diplomatic level. We will also appeal to the appropriate authorities to also investigate the conduct of the judges that actually passed the award because this is the worst in the world.”

On the lessons Nigeria has learnt from the P&ID case, Magu said: “That’s why we are here to deal with the situation on ground. After dealing with the situation on ground, we would address other things. There are some other agreements – about six like that that we need to look into that were against Nigeria, from same judges. The same judges have given another judgment of income against Nigeria. And the same expert opinion was being run. You can see the conspiracy.”

Also, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the federal government had been able to establish fraudulent practices, including money transfer between P&ID and some key officials of the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
Asked if Nigeria was opened to an out-of-court settlement, he said the federal government had not foreclosed any option in resolving the issue.
“Nigeria is doing everything to ensure that all our assets are safe from any embarrassment. I think P&ID is actually panicking because we are actually getting to unravel the sham called P&ID. Don’t forget that even before now, the company had been involved in other sham arbitration awards, some of which had been set aside. I think this is the only government that has the courage to call off the bluff of P&ID and we are not going to stop until we unravel this sham called P&ID,” the minister added.