The Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami; the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, on Saturday led a delegation to the United Kingdom for a fresh legal battle with a British firm, Process and Industrial Developments Ltd on Thursday.
The PUNCH gathered that other government officials that were part of the trip included the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, and the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu.
A British commercial court had in August affirmed the ruling of a London arbitration tribunal, which, in January 2017, awarded $6.6bn arbitral award against Nigeria over an alleged breach of a gas supply and processing agreement signed with P&ID.
The tribunal had ruled that Nigeria was liable for $6.6bn in damages, which increased to about $9.6bn with accruing interest.
The Federal Government had, through the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, on August 26, described the judgment as an assault on all Nigerians
She had said it was important for all Nigerians to rise up to the task of ensuring that the nation and its citizens were not unfairly treated on the matter.
The minister had said, “This matter that has brought us here today is a very weighty one. An award of $9.6bn is equivalent to N3.5trn. N3.5trn in our annual budget will be covering for us the personnel cost, which is about N3.2trn and more. So, this award is unreasonable, excessive and exorbitant.”
On Thursday, the British firm will return to the court to make a final push for the seizure of $9.6bn Nigerian assets, wherever they may be in the world.
We’ll go for the best option –AGF
But in a telephone interview with journalists on Sunday, the Attorney General of the Federation said the Federal Government was still considering all options in its efforts at upturning the judgment of the UK court.
Malami was asked whether the government would be filing a new case based on recent developments, especially the conviction it secured against the firm in Abuja on Thursday or would build on the previous judgment.
Two representatives of the P&ID had on Thursday pleaded guilty before the Federal High Court in Abuja to charges of fraud and tax evasion instituted against them in respect of the contract leading to the controversial judgment.
On Sunday, the Minister of Justice said the government would adopt the option that would be most beneficial.
He said, “All cards are on the table, but it all depends on the one that has potency for setting aside the award having regards to the applicable law in the circumstances.”
Malami made it clear that the government team was not ruling out any possibility in tackling the issue.
He said, “No possibility is ruled out. The options available to us include the possibility of filing a new case and or using existing proceedings to seek relief of setting aside the award (of the contract). Nothing can be ruled out.”
He also confirmed that the Nigerian delegation had left for the UK to discuss with the nation’s legal team.
He said talks between the government’s delegation and the legal team would consider strategies to be adopted in dealing with the matter.
Malami had told Saturday PUNCH on Friday that the case had yet to reach an appeal level, but at the stage of determining whether or not the P&ID should be allowed to enforce the award of $9.6bn by an arbitration panel against Nigeria.
He said the Federal Government would tender before the court evidence that the Gas Supply Processing Agreement signed in 2010, which led to the judgment of the British court, was rooted in fraud and corrupt practices.
The minister said although the court had ruled that Nigeria should pay P&ID $9.6bn, it had yet to grant the firm the go-ahead to seize Nigeria’s assets in enforcement of the award given in favour of the firm.
The AGF said the Federal Government would tender, among others, the investigative report of the EFCC as well as Thursday’s judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, convicting P&ID Limited, which was incorporated in the British Virgin Island, and its Nigerian affiliate of fraud.
The AGF said the government would also tender the charges pending against firms and individuals who played one role or the other in the alleged fraudulent GSPA.
Malami had said, “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.”