- Says P&ID judgment victory for Nigeria
Emma Okonji, Nosa Alekhuogie in Lagos and Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), wednesday expressed his readiness to appear before the presidential panel investigating the suspended Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, to substantiate his allegations against him.
Responding to the demand by Magu’s counsel, Mr. Wahab Shittu, that he should appear before the panel, headed by a former President, Court of Appeal, Justice Ayo Salami, Malami, while featuring on The Morning Show, the flagship programme of Arise News, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, said he was ready to testify before the panel if invited.
He stated that as the chief law officer of the country, he has a responsibility to assist whatever investigation that is taking place both locally or internationally.
He has also described the recent judgment of a UK court, granting Nigeria more time to appeal the $9.6billion arbitral award to Process & Industrial Development (P&ID) Limited, as a victory for the country.
He said: “For your information, I have signed and executed around eight witness statements before the Commercial Court in the UK, which translated to the victory we are celebrating today.
“So, the idea of testimony, the idea of appearance of the Office of the Attorney-General and indeed with the particular reference to Abubakar Malami before any panel, before any tribunal- local and international for the purpose of supporting an investigation that will see to the establishment and unraveling the truth associated with an issue under consideration is not new. I will in no way exercise any restraints as per honouring an invitation for the purpose of supporting any inquiry.
“So, if Ayo Salami panel invites Abubakar Malami (SAN) as a person or the Attorney-General of the Federation, for any testimony or any clarification, for any examination or cross-examination for that matter, Abubakar Malami will definitely and gladly within the spirit and context of rule of law be there to testify and will submit myself to be cross-examined within the context of the rule of law.”
According to him, his position is to be submissive to the rule of law and he will be ready to cooperate with any institution when called upon to clarify issues, be examined or cross-examined.
He added that he has along the chain of arbitral process submitted to uncountable invitations and responded to uncountable requests to clarify issues and execute uncountable witness statements in putting the records straight and the case of Salami will not be an exception.
The minister said the judgment by the UK court, which established a prima facie case of fraud against P&ID in the failed Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA) with Nigeria, is victory for Nigeria.
The minister stated that if the judgment had been against Nigeria, it could have led to an attack on the national assets both locally and otherwise.
He said those found guilty in the P&ID contract would be punished.
According to him, “Looking at it further from the implication of such attachment on our national budget, the amount awarded to Nigeria as fine is a bit in volume and size, an amount that could have been enough to address our national budget as it relates to health and education combined together. It is also an implication that could perhaps translate to an attachment of commercial assets and perhaps maybe inclusive of the national reserves.
“The total implication of this is an outright negative effect and affection to our financial standing locally and internationally. It would have certainly affected our economy that is already fragile, taking into consideration, the prevailing financial situation internationally.
“Looking at the volume and size of the award, it is an arbitrary award that amounts to about $10 billion.”
The minister added that “from the perspective of the implications, based on the huge award, which translates to about one-third of our national budget, the volume would certainly have affected our educational and health sector to the extent that we would not have had anything left after payment. The implication would have had an unimaginable negative effect on our economy and financial standing internationally.”
Giving clarifications to the statement he had earlier made that heads would roll among those involved in the deal that led to the fine, Malami said: “Heads have started rolling already, taking into consideration that extensive investigation as to the genesis and circumstances of the associated compromises. Certain elements have already been charged to court, heads have started rolling as certain convictions have been recorded arising from the P&ID contractual saga and indeed, heads will continue to roll taking into consideration that investigations are still ongoing.”
Shedding light on the possibility of considering settlement, Malami said: “Government operates in continuity and the settlement aspect is something that was inherited by the government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. At the time we came on board, we found an existing provision that the government has indeed offered to pay P&ID an amount within the region of over $800 million, but the offer was turned down by P&ID and was claiming damages for breach of contract.
“In the continuity principle on the basis of which the government is expected to operate, we found that element of the offer as being excessive, unreasonable and baseless against the background of perhaps limited appreciation of the prevailing facts and circumstances.
“At the end of the day, our decision saved the nation the sum of over $800 million that was rejected by P&ID, which could have been an extraordinary negative effect on our economy.
“Looking through the entire processes, it came to light that there were a lot of misgivings, compromises, apparent collusion and conspiracy. One lesson we need to learn from the P&ID saga is to understand clearly that a culture of impunity, compromise and breaches in processes and procedures has long been established and rooted in the Nigerian context and governance structure of Nigeria, before coming on board of this government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari. A further reason that needs to be learnt is that under this administration, a new contract has already evolved,” Malami said.
Reacting to the recent call for his probe, the minister said no one in the system was above investigation.
“The fact remains that this whole P&ID matter is indeed a collective responsibility. It is also a function of collaboration among the agencies of government. If the Office of the Attorney-General or the personality of the attorney-general and Abubakar Malami is called to question, it is only natural they investigate and I don’t think the office enjoys any immunity. I do not claim exclusivity as far as investigations are concerned. If there are reasonable grounds for suspicions of offences, compromises, criminal conspiracies associated with P&ID, it is only natural to ensure that no stone is left unturned, “he said.
Responding to the claims by Shittu that credit should be given to his client for the reprieve the UK court has granted Nigeria in the P&ID saga, Malami explained that it was a collective effort by various institutions.
“I wonder how one personality can claim a victory associated with an institution and is governmental. The police played a part, the minister for information and culture played an extraordinary vital role as well, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided the secretarial services in the United Kingdom. So, I wonder where a personalised claim can fit into the circumstances of a collaborative effort. The Ministry of Finance was equally there. The governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) played a key role out of the desire to ensure that the foreign reserves and commercial assets both locally and internationally were not attacked. Nobody is claiming exclusive victory arising from P&ID,” Malami explained.