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P&ID: AGF, EFCC hail UK court judgement on $11bn Arbitral Award as decisive victory for Nigerians

Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice

*Lateef Fagbemi, Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, commends the historic judgement of the UK Commercial Court, stating that P&ID and its associates  ‘shamelessly attempted to defraud the country and enrich themselves through sharing the FRN’s privileged documents, fraud, bribery and corruption on an industrial scale

*How former President Muhammadu Buhari administration challenged enforcement of out-of-tribunal agreement Award in UK court: EFCC

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister for Justice, has hailed the historic judgement handed down by Honourable Mr. Justice Robin St. John Knowles of the United Kingdom (UK) Commercial Court Monday, October 23, 2023.

Fagbemi Monday, stated for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration, it has been a night of long knives!

“This success marks the culmination of over a decade of legal action and is not just a victory for the people of Nigeria, but any similar target of corruption and fraud,” said he.

Photo: Google/The Citizen

ConsumerConnect reports  the UK court Monday ruled in favour of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) in the suit where the country moved to set aside the arbitral award of US$9.6 (now circa USD11 Billion) made against it in 2017, in favour of Process and Industrial Developments Limited (P&ID) for an alleged breach of a Gas Supply and Processing Agreement (GSPA).

The P&ID had claimed it purportedly entered into the GSPA with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources (MPR) to establish a gas processing plant in Calabar, in Cross River State, but the company never ever secured any land site.

Wide-ranging effects of $11bn Arbitral Award on Nigeria

In terms of the wide-ranging effects of the then pending case on Nigeria, the Minister recalled the Arbitral Award, over the years, had placed the assets of the FRN and those of its agencies all over the world at the risk of attachment, erosion of foreign reserves and distortion of monetary, fiscal, and other policies of government with attendant dire consequences for Nigeria and its people.

He also stated: “This emphasised the need for FRN to vigorously challenge and resist the enforcement of the Award by P&ID.

“The High Court has today (Monday) ruled that the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s (FRN) challenge to the arbitration award granted against it to an obscure hedge-fund backed BVI shell entity Process & Industrial Developments Ltd (P&ID) in 2017 has been successful.”

According to Fagbemi, the judgment handed down in the UK, has established that the award had been obtained by fraud, and in a way which was contrary to public policy.

P&ID Award most severe abuse of arbitral process -UK Judge

The AGF stressed the UK Judge particularly concluded that P&ID obtained the award only by “practising the most severe abuses of the arbitral process.”

Justice Knowles of the UK Commercial Court further noted: “That this case has also, sadly, brought together a combination of examples of what some individuals would do for money.

“Driven by greed and prepared to use corruption; giving no thought to what their enrichment would mean in terms of harm to other.”

The Nigerian Attorney-General restated that the judgement in Nigeria’s favour actually, marks the culmination of over a decade of legal action and is not just a victory for the people of Nigeria, but any similar target of corruption and fraud.

Quoting Mark Howard KC, lead counsel for the FRN which the court endorsed, Fagbemi stated: “P&ID was exactly the type of entity that was prepared to engage in bribery”, to achieve its aims – to undermine the administration of justice in Nigeria in the pursuit of, “riches beyond the dreams of avarice”.

Judgement a decisive victory for Nigerians: Fagbemi

The Federal Government said the successful result of the legal battle with P&ID is a decisive victory for the people of Nigeria who stood to lose over US$11 billion, and for the Nigerian administration, which has now reached a milestone in its mission to challenge the scourge of corruption.

The AGF further stated: “The judgment also serves as a damning indictment of predatory international investors, who should now rightfully be deterred from preying upon Nigeria and other developing nations to satisfy their greed.

“P&ID and its associates both Nigerians and foreigners alike, shamelessly attempted to defraud the country and enrich themselves through sharing the FRN’s privileged documents, fraud, bribery and corruption on an industrial scale.”

The AGF excitedly noted that those efforts, which took place over several years, had finally been uncovered for all to see.

He said: “It is imperative to point out that several agents of P&ID made overtures to the Government for settlement of this case. “However, the resolve of the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu not to go hands in gloves with fraudulent counterparties or condone corruption informed the position of the FRN to hold fast to its position not to settle.”

He equally asserted: “History has been made today, as this judgment is no doubt significant in the annals of Nigeria and indeed Africa.

“This judgement has vindicated the government and should serve as a pointer to others who might be nursing or nurturing any plan to swindle Nigeria.”

The AGF as well acknowledged and appreciated the close inter-agency collaboration of the FGN Team, comprising the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation (HAGF)/ Federal Ministry of Justice (FMoJ), Economic & Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Ministry of Petroleum Resources (MPR), the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) Department of State Security (DSS), and the Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU).

“There will be further hearings by the UK court on the heels of this judgement to determine costs payable by P&ID and other matters,” Fagbemi said.

How Buhari administration challenged enforcement of Arbitral Award at UK Commercial Court: EFCC

Meanwhile, in its reaction to the UK Commercial Court’s judgement also, Mr. Dele Oyewale, Spokesperson of Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in a statement also halied the judgement and recalled how P&ID had claimed that Nigeria violated the terms of its agreement by failing to provide gas for the power plant it wants to build for the country.

The statement noted: “According to the firm, the alleged violation frustrated the construction of the gas project agreed to during the government of former President Umaru Yar’Adua and deprived P&ID of the potential benefits expected from 20 years’ worth of gas supplies with “anticipated profits of $5 to $6 billion.”

However, an initial out-of-tribunal agreement for the payment of $850 million was reached by a previous administration, and the disbursement was passed on to the immediate past administration of President Muhammad Buhari.

The EFCC stated that Buhari, however, rejected the idea of paying the negotiated sum, and set aside the settlement agreement by challenging the enforcement of the award before the English Commercial Court.

But the London court added $2.4 billion in interest making it $9billion, it said.

The anti-graft Commission said the UK Judge granted Nigeria’s request for a stay on any asset seizures while its legal challenge was pending, but ordered it to pay $200 million to the court within 60 days to ensure the stay.

It also must pay some court costs to P&ID within 14 days. The decision of the court converted an arbitration award held by P&ID to a legal judgement, which would allow the British Virgin Islands-based firm to try to seize international assets.

Irked by the shadiness and hollowness of the claims of P&ID, Nigeria later began investigating the company through the EFCC and found evidence of two bank transfers totalling $20,000 made by Dublin-based Industrial Consultants (International) Ltd. — part of the P&ID group of companies — to Grace Taiga, a Nigerian government lawyer who oversaw the award of the gas plant contract.

The EFCC, challenging the payments through its counsel, Bala Sanga, said the payments, in 2017 and 2018, were made from an Industrial Consultants account at Allied Irish Banks and were purportedly for “medical costs”.

Based on this new evidence, which the EFCC considered to be “seismic”, Nigeria filed fraud challenges against P&ID, but the company had failed to respond to the charges till the judgement day for the company Monday, October 23.

Trials of key suspects allegedly involved in the fraud are ongoing at various levels of court in Abuja, according to report.

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