Nigeria’s Federal Government on Tuesday linked the contract which led to a judgement debt of $9.6 billion (N3.5 trillion) by a UK court to the administration of ex-President Umaru Yar’Adua.
An Irish-owned firm, Process and Industrial Developments Ltd (P&ID) was granted court permission to seize up to $9bn (£7.4bn) in assets belonging to the Nigerian government.
Mr Justice Christopher John Butcher of the British Commercial Court had said that the firm could take 20 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign reserves, a move that would deal a devastating blow to the Nigerian economy.
However, the government, at a joint briefing in Abuja by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alh. Lai Mohammed alongside the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed and the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele on Tuesday, said the judgment of the UK court could not stand.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the National Intelligence Agency( NIA) and the Inspector-General of Police to probe the criminal conspiracy behind the failed contract.
According to the minister, the decision was based on the fact that the Federal Government suspected foul play in the contract which was negotiated and signed in 2010.
“We want to place on record that the Federal Government views with serious concerns the underhanded manner in which the contract was negotiated and signed,” he said.Mohammed said indications were that the whole process was carried out by some vested interests in the past administration, which apparently colluded with their local and international conspirators to inflict grave economic injury on Nigeria and its people.He added that in view of the above, and in an attempt to unravel the circumstances surrounding the entire transaction, the Attorney General of the Federation, with the approval of Buhari had requested the EFCC, NIA and the Inspector General of Police to conduct a thorough investigation into the company, the circumstances surrounding the agreement and the subsequent event, which included commencing a full-scale criminal investigation.According to the minister, despite the recent recognition of the award by a UK court, and contrary to some reports, Nigeria was not about to lose any of its assets to P&ID, stressing that there was no imminent threat to Nigeria’s assets.
He explained that iIn the first instance, the enforcement of the award could not even commence now because the judge in the UK court ordered that the P&ID could not enforce the judgment against Nigeria until after the court resumed from its current vacation.
Mohammed added that what this meant was that enforcement action could not begin until a further hearing on the matter, which would take place on a date to be determined by the court upon its resumption, saying that the Federal Government assured Nigerians that there were no immediate threat to Nigeria’s assets as had been wrongly interpreted by a section of the media.
According to reports, in 2010, the company struck a deal in which the Nigerian government would supply gas to a processing plant in Calabar, built and run by P&ID, formed by two Irish businessmen.
The government failed to fulfill its side of the agreement.
However, in 2013, P&ID won a $6.6bn arbitration case. The figure was calculated based on what the company was estimated to have earned over the course of the 20-year agreement.
But P&ID now says interest accrued means it is owed $9bn.
The court’s decision means that the arbitration has been converted into a legal judgement, allowing P&ID to attempt a seizure of the assets, according to a report by City A.M
Lawyers representing the Nigerian government argued the award should not be enforced because England was not the correct place for the case, and even if it were, the amount awarded was “manifestly excessive.”
Justice Butcher rejected these arguments and said he would “receive submissions from the parties as to the precise form of order appropriate.”
“P&ID is committed to vigorously enforcing its rights, and we intend to begin the process of seizing Nigerian assets in order to satisfy this award as soon as possible,” said Andrew Stafford, Q.C. of Kobre & Kim, which represents P&ID.
In 2012, P&ID took the government to arbitration over the failure of the deal and won the award, which was based on what it could have earned during the 20-year agreement.
Stafford said that with accrued interest, the award now tops $9.6 billion.
Reuters previously quoted legal experts as saying that assets used for diplomatic purposes – such as the Nigerian High Commission building in central London – are not eligible for seizure, but commercial assets are.
Credit: PM News