President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the National Intelligence Agency and the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to conduct a thorough investigation into the activities of the Process and Industrial Developments Limited which was recently asked by a United Kingdom court to seize $9.6bn in Nigerian assets.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who disclosed this at a joint press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, also said the Federal Government was challenging the UK court’s $9.6bn judgment in a United States of America’s court in order to protect the country’s interest and its assets.
Mohammed was joined at the press conference by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN); Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zaynab Ahmed; and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele.
The minister said the President’s decision to probe the firm and its activities was based on the fact that the Federal Government suspected foul play in the contract which was negotiated and signed under the past administration in 2010.
He said, “We want to place on record that the Federal Government views with serious concerns the underhanded manner in which the contract was negotiated and signed.
“Indications are that the whole process was carried out by some vested interests in the past administration, which apparently colluded with their local and international conspirators, to inflict grave economic injury on Nigeria and its people.
Buhari orders EFCC, NIA to probe 2010 controversial contract
“In view of the above, and in an attempt to unravel the circumstances surrounding the entire transaction, the Attorney-General of the Federation, with the approval of Mr President, has requested the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the National Intelligence Agency and the Inspector-General of Police to conduct a thorough investigation into the company, the circumstances surrounding the agreement and the subsequent event, which includes commencing a full-scale criminal investigation.”
Mohammed, however, said despite the court judgment, Nigeria was not about to lose any of its assets.
He added, “Despite the recent recognition of the award by a UK court, and contrary to some reports, Nigeria is not about to lose any of its assets to P&ID. There is no imminent threat to Nigeria’s assets!
“In the first instance, the enforcement of the award cannot even commence now because the judge in the UK court ordered that the P&ID cannot enforce the judgment against Nigeria until after the court resumes from its current vacation.
“What this means is that enforcement action cannot begin until further hearing on the matter, which will take place on a date to be determined by the court upon its resumption.
“The Federal Government therefore wishes to use this opportunity to assure Nigerians that there is no immediate threat to Nigeria’s assets as has been wrongly interpreted by a section of the media.
“Nigerians should be assured that the Federal Government is taking all necessary steps to appeal the decision of the UK court, to seek for a stay of execution of the decision, to defend its rights and to protect the assets of the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Nigerians should be assured that the Federal Government 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 a background to the judgment, Mohammed said it was the fallout of the contract purportedly entered into in 2010 between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the P&ID.
He noted that in the 20-year Gas Supply Processing Agreement purportedly entered into with the P&ID in 2010, the company never performed as agreed, therefore necessitating the case going to arbitration.
The minister said P&ID’s claim in the arbitration proceedings was mainly for the loss of profit for the 20-year term of the GSPA.
He recalled that in an interim award, the Arbitration Tribunal ruled that Nigeria had breached the contract, adding that though Nigeria successfully applied to have that award set aside by the Federal High Court in Lagos, the tribunal ignored the decision.
He added that on January 31, 2017, the tribunal rendered its final award against the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in the sum of $6.597bn together with a pre-award interest at the rate of seven per cent per annum, effective from March 20, 2013 and post-award interest at the same rate from the date of the award.
This interest, he explained, increased the size of the award to $9.6bn.
He added, “After the arbitration award in 2017, Nigeria made several attempts to negotiate the award and resolve the whole issue amicably with the P&ID but to no avail, which eventually led to the enforcement proceedings instituted, simultaneously, by the company in the UK and the US.
“The Federal Government then engaged the services of the US law firm of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP, which took steps to defend the proceedings in the US District Court of Columbia to dismiss P&ID’s application for the enforcement of the award on the grounds that Nigeria, as a sovereign state, has an absolute right to obtain an authoritative determination of its sovereign immunity.
“While Nigeria has recorded some successes in that case in the US, the proceedings are currently ongoing in the US and the Federal Government will ensure that its interest and that of the people of Nigeria are vigorously defended.
“It is worth mentioning that in challenging the award, the Federal Government relied upon an expert report analysing the damages given to the P&ID. The expert concluded that the damages were clearly unreasonable and manifestly excessive and exorbitant; went far beyond any legitimate protection of the commercial interest of the P&ID; were completely wrong and obviously unjustifiable; and that the damages over compensated P&ID on a frankly gargantuan scale and imposed a punitive award on Nigeria.
“It was on this ground and others that the Federal Government took all available steps to resist enforcement before the courts of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the UK Court has recognised the award and given the company the authorisation to seize Nigeria’s assets.”
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