$9.6bn judgement debt: FG’s high-powered team leaves for legal tussle in UK

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Ahead of Thursday’s court hearing in the $9.6 billion judgement fine against Nigeria, the federal government has dispatched a high-powered team to London for a fresh legal battle to set aside the arbitration ruling.

Those on the delegation are the attorney general of the federation and minister of justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele,   inspector general of police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu; acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr. Ibrahim Magu, minister of information and culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, among others.

It would be recalled that an arbitration court in London had given a British firm, Process and Industrial Developments Ltd (P&ID) the go-ahead to seize Nigeria’s assets worth $9billion in a ruling which stemmed from a 20-year gas and supply processing agreement (GSPA) between P&ID and the federal government in 2010 to build a state-of-the-art gas processing facility in Calabar.

The plant, in which Nigeria was to have a 10-percent stake, was to refine associated natural gas into non-associated natural gas to power the national electric grid.

 The project however collapsed and the firm resorted to litigation.

It was first awarded $6.6 billion in an arbitration case in January 2017 by a US District Court.

The federal government refused to pay the sum.

The damages increased to $9 billion after interest.

 The $9.6 billion Nigeria is expected to pay is made of a $6.59 billion profit the company claims it would have made over a life project of 20 years and the balance of $3 billion accumulated interest since 2012 when the judgement was given.

Malami said in an interview with journalists on Sunday the Nigerian delegation had left for London to discuss with the legal team on strategies of dealing with the case.

He also said the federal government may file new charges in London against P&ID.

“The Nigerian delegation has left for the United Kingdom to discuss with the legal team on strategies dealing with the recent development regarding the P&ID contract judgment.

“All cards are on table but it all depends on the potency for setting aside the award having regards to the applicable law in the circumstances.

“No possibility is ruled out, including possibility of filling new case and or using existing proceedings to seek relief of setting aside the award (of the contract) cannot be ruled out,” he said.

The Nation reports that some of those on the delegation might present documents and reports, swear to affidavits on the investigations conducted on P&ID and the outcome as well as serve as witnesses.

It was also learnt that the government’s delegation will weigh all options, either to build on existing case or file a new case against the firm.

Punch also quotes Malami as saying that the federal government would tender the charges pending against firms and individuals who played one role or the other in the alleged fraudulent gas project.

“It has not got to any appeal stage as such. The arbitral panel had no enforcement power. So, when an award is made you have to approach the conventional court for the enforcement of the award.

“What they (P&ID) did was to approach the conventional court for the enforcement of the award.

“The conventional court said it was not going to give an order for the enforcement of the order until they were heard.

“They had wanted an order ex parte without putting us on notice to attach (for seizure) our assets. But the court said it would have to hear from the other side (Nigeria) in the enforcement proceedings.

“The court fixed September 26 for the hearing of arguments by the parties to determine whether to allow for the enforcement or not to allow the enforcement.

“So, it is not about an appeal now. The court’s pronouncement as to what amount of money to be paid has been made by the court.

“They approached the court to allow them to attach Nigerian assets in fulfillment of the award that was granted. The court fixed September 26 for the entertainment of arguments as to whether or not it would allow the attachment of Nigeria’s assets.

“So, we are going to the British court to argue that they should not be granted the power to attach the assets.

“The only thing that can be of help to Nigeria in stopping the enforcement of the entire award is proof of corrupt practices as the basis for the arbitral award.

“So, we called for investigation as to the relationship between local partners’ component and international partners’ component.

“And arising from the proof of evidence that we have in support of the charges that were filed by the EFCC, there is evidence that money changed hands between international partners and officials of the federal ministry of petroleum resources influencing things that had to do with the agreement, influencing the formation of the agreement, influencing what clauses should go into the agreement, influencing the officials to ensure the by-passing of the vetting by the federal ministry of justice, influencing the by-passing of the presentation of the agreement before the federal executive council.

“So, we have at our disposal proof that they sent money to Nigerian officials, and in return for the money that was sent to Nigerian officials, there was a compromise all through the creation of a fraudulent and deceitful agreement.

“Some of them have now pleaded guilty. So we are now armed with investigation report establishing corrupt practices. We are now armed with charges pending before the court arising from the fraudulent agreement,” he said.

It was also gathered that the EFCC which secured conviction and forfeiture order against P&ID Nigerian affiliate, had on last Friday, September 20, filed charges against two firms linked to P&ID.

The agency was also said to have prepared the ground for the prosecution of James Nolan, an associate of the owner of P&ID, the late Michael Quinn, on trial.

It was further learnt that the three suspects may forfeit all their assets in Nigeria to the federal government.

The firms are Goidel Resources Limited and ICIL Limited.

It was also learnt that the federal government may seek the extradition of Adam Quinn.

“We have a long list of suspects linked with the GSPA between the federal ministry of petroleum resources and P&ID.

“On Friday, we filed charges against two companies (Goidel and ICIL) and one James Nolan, who was an associate of the owner of P&ID, the late Michael Quinn.

“We are awaiting a date for the hearing of the charges against the two firms and James Nolan. We hope their arraignment will come up any moment from now.

“This is the second time James Nolan will be charged to court in Nigeria. In 2006, Michael Quinn and James Nolan were charged with six others before a Federal High Court on some charges bordering on arms trade challenges and alleged spying for the Russian embassy.

“The charge sheet then indicated that they were contractors to the federal ministry of defence.

“We resorted to this option in order to enable us initiate extradition process for Adam and Cahill because they were vital to P&ID operations in Nigeria,” said a source.

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