The Federal Government has given an insight into why the Muhammadu Buhari administration opted to negotiate with the Process and Industrial Developments (P&ID) Limited over a failed gas for power deal.
It hinged the decision on the fact that the window for an appeal against the $9.6 billion judgement by a British Commercial Court in favour of P&ID had elapsed as at the time the current administration came on board in May 2015.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), who made the stance of the government known in Abuja yesterday, also ruled out any possibility of betraying Nigeria’s national interest in the handling of the controversial $9.6 billion judgement.
Malami said: “As at the time we came on board as a government, there was already in existence, an award and a quantum determination of about $6.9 billion. As at that time we came into government, the time within which to appeal had already elapsed. There was no time for us to appeal because the previous administration had not appealed against the judgement of award when it was made in June 2014.
“So with the lapsing of time to appeal, you could not have filed an application to either set aside the award or to stay execution. You require the leave of the tribunal to appeal the award and that could have been a very difficult process because Nigeria as at then could have been adjudged to have slept over its right of appeal which is supposed to be done within a stipulated time.
“The only immediate option open to us then was to consider the option of negotiating. That was what informed our decision to accommodate the possibility of negotiation. But along the line of negotiations, many facts came to light, including the fact that have risen to the possibility of insinuations of fraudulent underhand among the parties involved in the contract.
“For your information, legally speaking, fraud could be a ground for setting aside an award without necessarily having to go through the route of seeking for leave. So if you can establish fraud, there is no time limit within which you can raise it as against appealing the award decision of the tribunal,” he said.
According to Malami, while the negotiation continues, the Federal Government would remain on the trail of all those who signed the contract and who were involved in the process to ensure they were brought to justice for colluding with foreigners to defraud Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the Justice Minister has said that the Nigerian Government will not sell out the interest of the country and the Nigerian people in order to satisfy some elements who, according to him, were consciously out to extort the Nigerian people for their selfish aggrandisement.
Malami noted that while the government remained willing and ready to negotiate in order to meet the terms of agreements reached with all genuine investors which have done business or are still doing business with Nigeria on mutually beneficial terms, it will not allow fraudulent local and foreign collaborators to rip off the resources of Nigeria for no just cause just to be seen as being nice or ‘investor-friendly’.
The minister said that after the hue and cry that greeted the judgement, he had decided not to speak too much on the matter since it is still within the domain of the courts in the United Kingdom and the United States.
He, however, chided those who have blamed him and the current administration over the deal, insisting that the whole contract and its outcome were part of liabilities inherited from the previous administration.
“Those who are clapping for P&ID and blaming Abubakar Malami and the Buhari administration for the huge $9.6 billion slammed on the country as a result of the so-called Gas Supply and Processing Contract awarded the firm on January 11, 2010, five years before President Buhari came to power and I became minister, should be kind enough to ask those who awarded the ‘so-called contract’ what it was all about and why there was no attempt by either those who awarded the contract and the contractor to implement even an aspect of it.
“Nigerians should also ask the PDP government that awarded the contract why it was given to a company, whose address is C/O of a lawyer’s office: Trident Chambers, P.O Box 146, Tortola, British Virgin Island and that means the company does not have an office of its own and has no record of executing any project of any kind close to what it was awarded in Nigeria.
“The questions to further ask are: In whose interest was the critical contract awarded and what was it to achieve? Why was the centre of arbitration taken to London, and not Nigeria, a sovereign nation? Why was the contract not passed unto the Federal Ministry of Justice for vetting? Why was the Federal Executive Council’s approval not sought for in the execution of the agreement? Was there any Direct Capital Inflow arising from the contract? Why were NNPC, NPDC and IOCs who were to have supplied the gas component of the agreement not made parties to it?
“So, it is clear from all indications that the so-called contract was 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 said.