FG alleges conspiracy in $9.6bn judgment debt

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The Federal Government says preliminary investigations has revealed local and international conspiracy in the purported gas contract leading to award of $9.6 billion judgment debt against Nigeria.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) disclosed this at a media briefing on Tuesday in Abuja.

The briefing organised by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed also had in attendance the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajia Zainab Ahmed and the Central Bank Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele.

Malami said that the preliminary investigations revealed that the contract from conception was bound to fail because of deliberate inherent elements designed into it.

“I want to draw attention first to the composition of parties in the agreements which are the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources (FMPR) and the company, Process and Industrial Developments Ltd. (P&ID).

“As you rightly know, the federal ministry of petroleum resources is not a producer of gas. Gas products are produced by International Oil Companies (IOC) and NNPC.

“When you conceive, sign and execute a contract for the supply of gas products without involving the IOC and NNPC as parties to the agreement, you know very well that there are lot of questions to answer rising from the conception of the contract.

“This, among others, gave rise to the insinuation of fraudulent conspiracies right from the conception of the agreement. The fact remains that you cannot sign an agreement to provide a product that you do not have.

“The ministry does not have oil field and gas products but it went ahead to sign the agreement without involving those that are producers of gas products,’’ he said.

Malami said President Muhammadu Buhari had directed that a full scale investigation be carried out on the circumstances that led to the award.

He said the country, through the contract, was subjected to unnecessary economic sabotage and investigation would unravel those involved in the deal.

Corroborating Malami’s position, the CBN Governor said the claim by P&ID that it spent 40 million dollars on the botched contract was not correct.

“We have heard that the contractors in this case claimed that they spent 40 million dollars in the project.

“On our part in CBN, we know that as a foreign company, if you are investing in a contract or project in Nigeria, there are various options that you adopt.

“If you are bringing in machines into the country to execute a contract, you must fill certain forms and pay some money through the CBN.

Emefiele said “we have gone through our records but we do not have any information to show that the company brought in one cent into the country for the purported project. “We have accordingly written to the EFCC and other agencies investigating the case.

“Time has come that Nigerians should rise against those who claim to do business in Nigeria without investing a penny in the country but all with an intention to defraud the country. The money they are plotting to take belongs to all of us,’’ he said

The Finance minister on her part said the case was weighty considering the fact that the awarded 9.6 billion dollar is equivalent to N3.5 trillion.

“N3.5 trillion in our national budget will be covering for us recurrent votes if not more. Apart from being exorbitant, it is unfair and an assault to every Nigerian,’’ she said

According to Ahmed, every Nigerian must come together to ensure that the judgment is set aside because the consequences will affect everyone.

It will be recalled that in January 2010, the FMPR entered into a 20-year gas and supply processing agreement (GSPA) with P&ID to build a gas processing facility.

P&ID was to refine associated natural gas into non-associated gas to power the national electric grid.

Dr Rilwanu Lukman, who died in 2014, was the minister of petroleum at the time while late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was on a medical trip to Saudi Arabia.

Narrating the issues that led to the judgment, the information and culture minister said the 20-year Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA) purportedly entered into with the P&ID in 2010, the company never performed as agreed.

“With the contract having suffered a setback, the case went to arbitration. P&ID’s claim in the arbitration proceedings was mainly for the loss of profit for the 20-year term of the GSPA.

“In an interim award, the Arbitration Tribunal ruled that Nigeria has breached the contract.

“Though Nigeria successfully applied to have that award set aside by the Federal High Court in Lagos, the Tribunal ignored this decision.

“Consequently, on January 31, 2017, the Tribunal rendered its final award against the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in the sum of 6.597 billion dollars.

“This was in addition to 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 increased the size of the award to 9.6 billion dollars,’’ he said.

Mohammed said that after the arbitration award in 2017, Nigeria made several attempts to negotiate the award and resolve the whole issue amicably with P&ID but to no avail.

He said following an enforcement proceedings instituted simultaneously by the company in the UK and the U.S., the government engaged the services of the U.S. law firm of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP.

The minister also reiterated governmen’s position on the underhanded manner in which the contract was negotiated and signed.

He said indications were that the whole process was carried out by some vested interests in the past administration.

Mohammed, however, assured Nigerians that contrary to reports in certain quarters, the country was not about to lose any of its assets to P&ID as a result of the judgment.

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