- Appeals $200million security for stay
- Insists P&ID bribed Nigerian official with billions of naira to secure failed deal
Iyobosa Uwugiaren in Abuja
The federal government Wednesday said it was confident that it would overturn the $9.6bn arbitral award by a London Arbitration Tribunal, and confirmed by a United Kingdom commercial court, to an Irish company, Process and Industrial Developments Limited (P&ID), saying its preliminary success in securing a stay of execution was a pointer to the viability of its hope.
It also said that it had directed its lawyers to appeal the $200 million security deposit, which the court set as condition for sustaining the stay of execution of enforcement of the award, pending the resolution of its appeal at the appellate court in the UK.
The federal government’s confidence was expressed by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who addressed newsmen in Abuja yesterday and said it had enough evidence of fraud to frustrate the enforcement of the award.
The Irish company had dragged the federal government to the arbitration tribunal, which awarded it the hefty sum for the failure of a gas to power project signed in 2010. It got a UK commercial court to confirm the award recently, forcing Nigeria to approach the appellate court to reverse the lower court’s judgment on the ground that the contract was grounded in fraud.
Mohammed anchored the government’s optimism on last Thursday’s decision by a British commercial court to grant its request to appeal the case, saying if the appeal stands no good chance of being successful, the court would not have allowed it.
He spoke on the outcome of the government delegation’s activities in London last week to attend a court hearing on the bid by P&ID to get judicial nod to seize Nigeria’s assets to recoup the $9.6 billion claim, and said it had instructed its lawyers to appeal against the ruling of the London commercial court for it to deposit $200 million as a precondition for staying the execution of levying the arbitral award on its assets.
In granting Nigeria’s request to suspend hearing on the P&ID’s bid to seize Nigeria’s assets so it could appeal the case, Justice Christopher Butcher had given Nigeria 60 days to pay the $200 million into a court account, as a precondition to grant a stay on seizure of national assets.
Mohammed, who briefed journalists on behalf of the federal government, also told them how P&ID made suspicious payments, running into billions of naira, to a former Legal Director in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Grace Taiga, who is currently being tried for her alleged roles in the Gas Supply and Processing Agreement (GSPA) between P&ID and the ministry.
According to Mohammed, who was on the delegation to London, the payment, transferred in three tranches, could only have been made in appreciation of the alleged ‘good deed’ done to P&ID by Taiga.
In addition to Taiga, who is currently on bail, the federal government has secured the conviction of two directors of P&ID, Mr. Mohammed Kuchazi, who is of P&ID BVI, and Mr. Adamu Usman, who belongs to P&ID Nigeria, on charges of money laundering and economic sabotage.
The court also ordered the winding-up of the company and the confiscation of its assets by the federal government following charges of tax evasion.
The minister said: “P&ID has every reason to be worried that the $9.6 billion arbitration award to it has a good chance of being overturned.’’
Another condition the court imposed on Nigeria to stay the execution of giving P&ID the go-ahead to seize national assets is for the federal government to also pay £250,000, representing P&ID’s solicitors’ advance costs, within 14 working days.
However, Mohammed said Nigeria had no problem with the second condition as it would be able to demand a refund of the £250,000 payment to P&ID, if the government wins on the appeal.
The federal government delegation to London comprised the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN); Mohammed, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele; Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu; Assistant Inspector General of Police, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde; and Acting Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu.
Mohammed said the team set off to achieve three main objectives: change the narrative, especially on the international stage, on the entire P&ID issue, more so in the run-up to the September 26, 2019 court hearing on the case; apply for leave of the commercial court to appeal the judgment that affirmed the $9.6 billion arbitration award, and seek a stay of execution on the UK judgment that recognised the arbitration award to P&ID over a botched 20-year gas deal with Nigeria.
He said the team’s visit was a huge success.
He said: “Without being immodest, I can say categorically that we achieved all three objectives. First, we took London by storm, taking our case to international media outlets and Think Tanks like AP, AFP, Reuters, Bloomberg, BBC, Financial Times, The Economist, The African Confidential, Royal African Society and the Red Lions Chambers, a leading Barrister’s Chambers in London, among others. We also met a group of experts and stakeholders.
“Our message was simple: P&ID, a company without a physical address and no known investment anywhere in the world, set out to dupe Nigeria from day one, with the connivance of unpatriotic, corrupt and greedy Nigerians.
‘’The entire Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA), which P&ID entered into with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, is nothing but a fraudulent contraption with no chance, or expectation, of success.’’
He said the “unprecedented” $9.6 billion in arbitral award to P&ID constituted an unreasonable reward to a company that has done nothing more than to engage in fraud and economic sabotage, saying it runs contrary to the course of justice and could bring harm and hardship to Nigeria.
He said a contract of that magnitude could not be said to have been valid until it has been vetted by the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation and approved by the Federal Executive Council.
“The sham contract was also signed in contravention of the Bureau of Public Procurement Act and the Infrastructural Regulatory Commission Procurement Act,” he pointed out, adding: “While the MoU for the project was signed in 2009 by P&ID Nigeria Limited and the Nigerian government (Ministry of Petroleum Resources), a trick clause dubiously inserted in the MoU was curiously activated that allowed British Virgin Island (BVI)-registered P&ID to replace the original contractual party, P&ID Nigeria Limited, to sign the contract on January 11 2010.
He explained: “P&ID incorporated in BVI is a shell company that has no history of any business except the phantom GSPA in Nigeria. Please note that there is no board resolution approving the assignment of the contractual interest to P&ID BVI. P&ID never kick-started the construction of the project facility despite its claim to have invested $40 million in Nigeria. It also never acquired any land to build the gas processing plant.
“Besides, there is no proof of any financial commitment by P&ID toward th
e execution and implementation of its own obligation as stipulated in the 2010 agreement, while the CBN confirmed there was no trace of any funds brought into Nigeria by P&ID.”
He explained Taiga’s alleged involvement in the deal: “Suspicious payments were made to Mrs. Grace Taiga, the Legal Director in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. Mrs Taiga was supposed to ensure that the interest of the country was adequately protected.
“Of course, the payment, transferred in three tranches, could only have been made in appreciation of the ‘good deed’ done to P&ID by Mrs Taiga. Also, billions of naira in suspicious cash transfers were made by P&ID. Investigations continue into these transfers.”
According to the GSPA, the gas for the project, to generate electricity for Nigeria, was expected to come from OML 67 operated by ExxonMobil and OML 123 operated by Addax but the federal government said none of the two companies was even aware of the agreement.
Mohammed said for such a supposedly important project, there was no budgetary provision for the implementation of the GSPA in the budget of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in 2010 and P&ID did not obtain the necessary licence to deal in petroleum products from the Department of Petroleum Resources as stipulated by extant laws, adding that the firm also neither filed tax returns nor paid VAT to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) as required by law.
Explaining further the judgment, he said the federal government now has an unconditional permission to appeal against the decision of the commercial court, recognising and converting the $9.6 billion arbitration award in favour of P&ID to a domestic judgment.
Mohammed said: “The Nigerian government won a leave of the commercial court to appeal the judgment, which P&ID had vehemently resisted. The court granted the federal government unconditional permission to appeal against its own decision, and the court rejected P&ID’s arguments that there was no basis for any appeal.
“On the contrary, the judge expressly recognised that the case was of major importance to the government and people of Nigeria, and that the federal government had a serious case to present to the Court of Appeal that his decision was wrong.
“All but one of the six proposed grounds of appeal by the Nigerian government were allowed by the commercial court. This is a huge success.’’
He said the judge also recognised that the ownership of P&ID was opaque and that a vulture fund stands behind it which had engaged lawyers determined to pursue a strategy, including the temporary seizure of assets, regardless of state immunity claims.
According to him, the federal government looks forward to its day in court in the appeal, where it is confident that it will receive a fair hearing and the order permitting enforcement of the arbitral award will be set aside.
The minister thanked the Nigerian media for its largely objective and patriotic reportage of the GSPA saga, despite the alleged attempts by P&ID to muddy the waters.