•Orders Full Investigation By EFCC, NIA, IGP
The Federal Government, once again, on Tuesday, took a swipe at the government of past President Goodluck Jonathan, accusing some elements in the administration of collusion to frustrating several attempts at negotiating or resolving the $9.6bn judgement awarded to Process and Industrial Developments Limited (P&ID) by a UK court amicably.
Addressing a press conference Minister of Information & Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, lamented that the vested interests are colluding with “their local and international conspirators to inflict grave economic injury on Nigeria and its people.”
The Minister who was accompanied by his Abubakar Malami and Zainab Usman, his counterparts in the Justice and Attorney General of the Federation; the Finance, Budget and National Planning Ministries respectively and Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), said President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a thorough investigation into the transaction.
The investigation, ordered by AGF, with the approval of the President, which will be conducted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), he said, will “attempt to unravel the circumstances surrounding the entire transaction.”
The panel will also conduct a thorough investigation into P&ID, “the circumstances surrounding the agreement and the subsequent event, which includes commencing a full-scale criminal investigation.”
Suggesting that the country still has some time in its hands, Mohammed allayed fears that the creditor will enforce the judgement soon since the award has been recognised by a UK court already.
“Nigeria is not about to lose any of its assets to P&ID. There is no imminent threat to Nigeria’s assets… there is no immediate threat to Nigeria’s assets as has been wrongly interpreted by a section of the media,” he assured, explaining that the enforcement cannot even commence yet.
The UK court, he continued, “ordered that the P&ID cannot enforce the judgment against Nigeria until after the court resumes from its current vacation.”
What this means, he continued, “is that enforcement action cannot begin until a further hearing on the matter, which will take place on a date to be determined by the court upon its resumption.”
The Federal Government, he stressed, “will strongly avail itself of all defences customarily afforded to sovereign states under the United Kingdom Sovereign Immunity Act to stave off any enforcement of the award.”
Giving the background to the $9.6bn judgement delivered on Friday, August 16, 2019, a fallout of the 20-year Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA) contract purportedly entered into in 2010 between the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and P&ID in 2010, the Minister said the company never performed as agreed.
After the contract suffered a setback, he recalled that the case went to arbitration, with P&ID claiming loss of profit for the lifespan of the contract
The Arbitration Tribunal, he noted, ruled that Nigeria, indeed, breached the contract, following which the country applied to have the award set aside by the Federal High Court in Lagos, a decision that was ignored by the tribunal.
January 31, 2017, he continued, “the Tribunal rendered its final award against the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in the sum of US$6.597 billion, together with pre-award interest at the rate of 7% per annum, effective from 20 March 2013 and post-award interest a the same rate from the date of the award. This interest increased the size of the award to US$9.6bn.”
Reacting to the P&ID debacle in a series of tweets on Friday, August 23, 2019, Reno Omokri, an aide to ex-President Jonathan urged the Muhammadu Buhari government to stop pointing fingers, but rather to “start seeking solutions to its own self-induced challenges.”
Accusing the government of sheer pettiness and deliberately messing “up the P&ID case in the myopic view that they could use it to spite Jonathan,” he said, “it is too late in the day to rewrite history.”
He recalled that Jonathan had no hand in negotiating or signing the P&ID contract which was sealed in January 2010, whereas Jonathan administration came into being in an acting capacity on February 9, 2010.
He accused Malami and President Buhari of frustrating the damage control and patriotic efforts of negotiating a settlement with P&ID by the Jonathan government.
The Jonathan administration, he continued, “negotiated down the demand by P&ID for loss of revenue to $850m,” which President “Buhari refused to pay.”
A major reason why the out of court settlement failed, he continued, he recalled further, was because the then-new Buhari administration “did not have a government in place for six months after he was sworn in on May 29, 2015, which meant that Nigeria was not properly represented at the arbitration.”
Photo caption: Alh. Lai Mohammed addressing the press conference at the National Press Centre, Radio House, Abuja, on Tuesday, August 27, 2019. With him are the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (left), his Finance, Budget and National Planning counterpart, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, and CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele.