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P&ID: UK Court Grants Nigeria Stay of Execution, Leave to Appeal

-Benjamin Ike

The Federal Republic of Nigeria on September 26 pulled off a major breakthrough in its bid to upturn the $9.6bn judgement debt in favour of Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) as a UK court granted the country leave to appeal, and a ‘stay of execution’ of the earlier judgement.

The ruling by Commercial and Arbitral Court of the United Kingdom (UK) offers the country a fresh opportunity to prove its allegation against P&ID that the company was bent on using its alleged claim of expertise in gas processing to defraud Nigeria.

The court heard the Federal government’s fresh grounds to review the judgement and ruled that a stay of execution be granted subject to a $200 million security payment to court within 60 days pending the determination of the appeal.

Reacting to the condition, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) said: I am pleased with today’s development in the court as I see this as a positive resolution that constitutes an important step in the government’s effort to defend itself in challenging the UK Commercial Court’s recognition of the Tribunal’s decision in the UK Court of Appeals, uncovering P&ID’s outrageous approach for what it is; a sham based on fraudulent and criminal activity developed to profit from a developing country.” We will study the court rulings, exercise the right of appeal, and consider the legal options available at our disposal as it relates to the payment of $200 million in view of the 60 days window stipulated by the Court.”

Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed

Also reacting, P&ID in a statement welcomed the ruling, saying, “The Nigerian government will now have to put its money where its mouth is if it wants to avoid immediate seizure of assets.”

It went on: The Nigerian government’s media exercise to allege fraud against P&ID turned out to be a red herring. Indeed the Nigerian government did not present any evidence to support Attorney General Malami’s findings from his sham investigation. The Nigerian government knows there was no fraud and the allegations are merely political theatre designed to deflect attention from its own shortcomings.”

Some Nigerians allegedly involved in the failed gas supply contract were recently convicted by the local court, which also ruled on the seizure of P&ID’s assets in Nigeria. The Project conceived by P&ID founders, Brendan Cahill and Michael Quinn, was to deliver much-needed power generation to millions of Nigerians and create profitable by-products for sale on the international market. Under an agreement with Nigeria, P&ID would build a state-of-the-art gas processing plant to refine natural gas (wet gas) into lean gas.”

P&ID would receive no payment for this work: instead, it would own the by-products created by the refining such as propane, ethane and butane known as Natural Gas Liquids (NGLs) and would have the right to sell them on the international market. This market would be worth billions of dollars over the 20-year lifespan of the contract.”

Nigeria reportedly failed to supply the ‘wet gas’ which was required under the terms of contract and so the project could not continue.

P&ID claimed it made multiple compromises in an attemt to find a workable solution but did “not find a willing partner on the other side of the table.”

In 2012 P&ID went to arbitration to try to resolve the dispute, and in 2016, the panel of independent arbitrators ruled that Nigeria was liable to the company, a decision that has led to the current situation.

Earlier, the Federal government was urged to arrest and prosecute ex-government officials connected with the ill-fated gas plant project.

The Executive Secretary, Anti-Corruption and Research Based Data Initiative, Dr. Dennise Agbanya whose anti-graft outfit investigated former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen on fraud said the P&ID contract was a scam aided by some unpatrotic citizens to swindle the country.

“The administration that initiated the contract (the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s administration) should have guided it to a logical conclusion if it was well-intended in the first place.

Late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua

“In fact, the negotiation that saw P&ID agreeing to take $850m instead of $6bn early 2015 was not enough excuse to exonerate the administration of its carelessness that brought about this mess, Aghanya said in a statement made available to newsmen on September 5, in Abuja.

The statement therefore, called on the AGF, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) to open investigation into the matter with a view to prosecuting ex-officials of government who were directly and indirectly involved in the P&ID hoax contract.

“The AGF should without delay invite the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) to commence probe and prosecution of officials of the past administration who structured the contract with P&ID and failed to take corrective measures when it became obvious that the contract was not working.

“When would government officials in this country realise that the interest of the country should come first in all official negotiations.

“It has become the norm for persons in position of authority, either civil servants or political appointees, to see public office as a means of amassing wealth rather than rendering service for public interest.

“We therefore encourage the President to beam his searchlight on the activities of officials of past administration without blinking.

“The President must act without consideration to political affiliation as his fight against corruption enters the send phase in the schedule of this government,

“In Republic of China, economic sabotage attracts death penalty and we should begin to contemplate that level of stiff penalty in this country.

“We wish to commend the AGF and Minister of Justice for his stance that the judgement by the British Commercial Court must be set aside because of the dire consquences of allowing implementation of such judgement on the country’s economy.”

Notwithstanding, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed reassured Nigerians that the country would not lose any of its assets based on the judgement inspite of what he described as the firm’s grandstanding.

Mohammed wondered how people could come to Nigeria with portfolio and walk away with about 20% of our entire foreign reserves.

P&ID had argued that the accrued interest of $1.2 million a day had pushed the amount to $9.6bn – about 1/5 (one-fifth) of Nigeria’s declared foreign reserves of $45bn.