The federal government has taken fresh steps to set aside the entire $9.6 billion arbitral award a British arbitration panel granted a British Islands company, Process and Industrial Developments Limited (P&ID), over Nigeria’s alleged breach of a Gas Supply and Processing Agreement (GSPA) with the company.
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), said yesterday that the government, which had started implementing the new strategy to free Nigeria from the contractual obligations that it had insisted was fraudulently secured by the company, was pursuing with dogged determination its desire to get the court to quash the GSPA.
Under the GSPA between P&ID and the federal government consummated in 2010, Nigeria was to supply wet gas up to 400 million standard cubic feet per day to a gas processing plant P&ID was supposed to build in Cross River State, for the generation of electricity for the country.
However, the alleged breach by Nigeria to supply the gas triggered a legal battle between the company and the country, leading to the hefty fine against Nigeria.
Malami, in a statement by his spokesman,
Dr. Umar Gwandu, in Abuja, said part of the reviewed strategy included the beefing up Nigeria’s legal team with lawyers who have specialised skills.
His statement came on the same day trial resumed at the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, in a case of a British citizen, James Nolan, accused of having links with P & ID. The accused applied to the court for a variation of his bail conditions.
The statement quoted the minister as saying that under the new strategy, “no lawyer was replaced, but more lawyers with specialised skills are locally and internationally engaged to support the existing capacity and initiate fresh suits with a view to achieve the desired result.”
Explaining what he meant by the desired results, the minister said: “This time around it is not limited to a challenge on enforcement proceedings, but extended to setting aside the entire liability and probably the nullification of the contract on the basis of which the award was hinged.”
He repudiated the allegation of replacement of the Nigerian legal team handling the P&ID case, saying: “Our lawyers originally engaged have proven to be versatile, competent and effective and constitute our winning team. They have such capacity, which we do not doubt in their ability to deliver.
“There was no change of counsel, but enhanced strategy commonly agreed upon which was targeted at getting overall success.”
Malami, once again, described the P&ID contract as a well-organised scam “consciously, deliberately and intentionally orchestrated by some dubious and well-placed Nigerian government officials at the time with some shrewd foreign collaborators to defraud Nigeria and inflict heavy economic and financial loss on Nigeria and its people.”
He vowed that the federal government would not sell out the interest of the country and the Nigerian people to satisfy some elements who are consciously out to extort Nigerians for their selfish aggrandisement.
“We will not allow fraudulent local and foreign collaborators to rip off the resources of Nigeria for no just cause but merely to be seen as being nice or ‘investor-friendly,” he stated.
The federal government had appealed the $9.6 billion judgment and also paid £250,000 to P & ID as ordered on September 26 by Justice Christopher Butcher of the Commercial Court in London.
Nigeria had also appealed against the order of the same court which asked that a $200 million security payment be made into its account within 60 days as a condition for a stay of execution of the $9.6billion judgment.
Justice Butcher had at the September 26 proceedings granted Nigeria leave to appeal against the $9.6 billion award.
In granting the leave, the court had ordered Nigeria to pay the £250,000 cost to P&ID within 14 days.
The court had also approved the Nigerian government’s application for a stay of execution; which would prevent P&ID from seizing the nation’s assets while the case is on appeal.
But the judge ordered Nigeria to pay $200 million as security to maintain the stay of execution.
However, the federal government did not pay the $200 million but appealed against it.
Briton Asks Court to Vary Bail Conditions
Meanwhile, Nolan yesterday applied for the variation of his bail conditions at the Federal High Court.
Nolan was on October 21, arraigned alongside another Briton, Adam Quinn (at large), over their alleged complicity in the activities of P&ID.
The arraignment of the two British nationals is coming weeks after two P&ID directors were convicted over the deal.
The defendants, both directors of Goidel Resources Limited, a Designated Non-Financial Institution (DNFI) and ICIL Limited, were arraigned on a 16-count charge bordering on money laundering.
Justice Okon Abang on November 7, admitted Nolan to a bail in the sum of N500 million.
Justice Abang, who granted the bail in an application filed by Nolan, ordered that the applicant must produce “a surety in like sum, who must be a Nigerian and a serving senator not standing any criminal trial in any court in Nigeria.”
At the resumed trial yesterday, counsel to the defendant, Mr. Paul Erokoro (SAN), prayed the court to favourably grant their application for bail variation.
The lawyer also told the court that he was not prepared for the commencement of trial due to inability to have adequate access to his client.
The EFCC had informed the court that it was ready to commence the trial earlier slated for today.
However, in a short ruling, Justice Abang agreed with the prosecution that the court at its last sitting adjourned to commence trial yesterday.
The court held that the defendant who is yet to meet the conditions of his bail granted last month has been given enough time to prepare for his defence.
Justice Abang said the commencement of trial of the defendant would not be adjourned based on oral application or on the grounds that he had filed an application for the variation of bail conditions.
The judge, however, ordered officials of the correctional centre where Nolan is being remanded to grant access to his lawyer to visit and to receive brief from defendant.
He subsequently ordered the prosecution to call its first witness, an official of Guaranteed Trust Bank (GTBank).
Testifying, Mr. Adewale Akinseye, an account officer with the GTBank, Abuja, said Nolan’s two companies namely; Goidel Limited and ICIL Limited operated six separate accounts with the bank.
Led in evidence by prosecution counsel, Mr. Iheanacho Ekele, the witness said both companies were registered with Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) but he was not sure whether the operator of the companies provided evidence of Special Control Against Money Laundering (SCUAML) at the time the company account was opened.
Akinseye said the bank received a request in August from EFCC to provide account documents in respect of the companies.
The court admitted as exhibits the companies opening bank accounts and EFCC letter to GTBank dated September 26, in respect of the investigation activities.
The witness said that Nolan and Isaac Ebubuotu were signatories to both accounts and either of them could sign.
According to transactions in the bank statement in one of the Account with number: 0154696733, the sum of $127,000 was credited in February 1 ,2018.
On May 2, 2019 the sum of $47,975 was paid into the account from Industrial Consultant International.
He said on account with number: 01728629, the sum of N50m was transferred on December 15 , 2015 from Box Design to Goidel Ltd while on Nov 6, 2016 the sum of N6m was transferred into the same account.
Another sum of N11million from Lurgi Consult Ltd was said to have been transferred to Goidel Ltd on May 6, 2016.
Other transactions according to Akinseye, include N10 million transferred in February 1, 2018 from Eclate Plethora Limited to Goidel Limited.
On Account with Number: 0024024414-, the witness said $350,000 was paid on September 1, 2014 from Basale Enterprises while the sum of $80,000 paid to Ahmed Usman in September 4, 2014.
Also, on September 4, 2014 $40,000 was paid to Neil and Elizabeth while on September 8, the sum of $700 was paid to one Ahmed Usman.
Under cross-examination by Erokoro, the witness said Goidel’s account was open on May 20, 2014/while ICIL account was opened November 2006.
He said the companies operated corporate accounts and met the requirements for operating them.
The cross-examination continues today.