A court in the United Kingdom has delivered an unprecedented judgment, permitting Nigeria to proceed with its challenge of an arbitral award (now over $10 billion) made against it over three years ago, and also agreed that the country had established a prima facie case of fraud against the benefiting firm, Process and Industrial Development (P&ID).
The arbitration decision was over a failed Gas Supply and Processing Agreement (GSPA) between P&ID, an Irish firm, and the federal government of Nigeria.
In a swift reaction, President Muhammadu Buhari said the judgment had given Nigeria the lead to protect its national assets from a criminally-minded group, adding, “the gas contract was fraudulent and only an attempt to defraud Nigeria of its hard earned resources.”
Last year, a commercial court in London upheld the earlier arbitration award to P&ID, which had then accumulated to about $9.6 billion, threatening to seize the nation’s foreign assets, which Nigeria is currently challenging.
The country had in July filed an application for extension of time to enable it submit necessary evidence to prove that the said P&ID contract was a scam abinitio.
The British court in its ruling on Thursday allowed Nigeria to file necessary documents outside the normal time limits permitted by law, “due to the exceptional circumstances where Nigeria has uncovered evidence of a massive fraud in procuring the award.”
Justice Ross Cranston of the United Kingdom’s Royal Court of Justice ruled that Nigeria has established a prima facie case of fraud against P&ID in the country’s bid to upturn the arbitration penalty awarded to the shadowy company.
Sir Cranston, in his judgment, which also granted Nigeria’s application for an extension of time and relief from sanctions, noted the unethical and dishonest conduct of Mr. Supo Shasore, SAN, a former Attorney-General of Lagos State and former partner at Ajumogobia and Okeke in the fraudulent deal.
“… That Nigeria’s counsel in the arbitration, Mr. Shasore dishonestly failed to challenge Mr. Quinn’s perjured evidence or to seek disclosure from P&ID such that Tribunal had no choice but to find favour…
“However, what persuades me of a prima facie case of dishonesty in Mr. Shashore’s conduct of the arbitration, are his payments of $100,000 each to Mrs. Adelore and Mr. Oguine. Mrs. Adelore occupied Ms. Taiga’s position at the Ministry as the senior lawyer and Mr Oguine was her counterpart at the NNPC. Their salaries as public servants, according to the Attorney-General, Mr. Malami, were about $5,000 per annum,” Sir Cranston said in his judgment.
A statement yesterday by Dr. Umar Gwandu, the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, said during the hearing, new evidence was presented to further support Nigeria’s challenge.
The statement said the Buhari administration, having inherited this dispute from the previous administration, only recently uncovered evidence that the GSPA was a sham commercial deal designed to fail from the start, and that its subsequent arbitral award was based on fraud and corruption.
It added that Nigeria “is relying on a number of ongoing investigations” across multiple jurisdictions, including the U.S, to build its case.
“The FRN will now proceed to a full trial of the issues, where the FRN’s substantive application to finally set aside the award will be heard, thereby recording a major success considering the fact that the Federal Government’s exceptional circumstances application to have its challenge taken well outside the normal time limits is upheld on account of uncovered evidence of massive fraud in procuring the award,” Gwandu said.
The media aide, who noted that the government “is pleased” with the outcome from the High Court hearing yesterday, said it was a major victory in the country’s ongoing fight against the vulture-fund-backed P&ID, to overturn the injustice of the multi-billion dollar arbitral award.
“In light of the new and substantive evidence presented regarding P&ID’s fraudulent and corrupt activities, the Court has granted our application for an extension of time to hear our challenge out of normal time limits.
“The Federal Government will now proceed to a full hearing of our fraud challenge in the coming months. Investigations into the GSPA are ongoing, and we are firmly committed to overturning the award – no matter how long it takes – to ensure that this money goes towards Nigeria’s future, not into the pockets of millionaires trying to exploit our country,” the statement added.
In its application for extension of time, Nigeria had disclosed that it has uncovered alleged bribes to government officials and their family members dating back to 2009.
Malami in his court filing on March 24, submitted that “There is good reason to believe that ministers at the highest level were involved in a corrupt scheme to steal money from Nigeria.”