$9bn award: FG may invite ex-NNPC bosses, Diezani, others

There are indications that the Federal Government may soon ask the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to invite for questioning some past group managing directors of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, among others, over the stalled $9bn gas deal between Nigeria and the foreign firm, Process & Industrial Developments Limited.

The development came barely 48 hours after the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), said that the Federal Government would bring to book former and current government officials who caused the award of $9bn by a British court against Nigeria.

“As a government that has the mandate of the people and their interest at heart, we shall not fold our arms and allow this injustice to go unpunished as all efforts, actions and steps shall be taken to bring to book all private individuals, corporate entities and government officials – home or abroad and past or present – who played direct and indirect roles in the conception, negotiation, signing, formation as well as prosecution of the purported agreement,” Malami said.

Although the Federal Government has yet to make any pronouncement, sources close to the government said the process of handing over the matter to the EFCC might commence soon.

London’s Commercial Court on August 16, 2019 granted P&ID the right to seek to seize some $9bn in assets from the Nigerian government over the aborted gas project.

The Federal Government has, however, appealed the judgment.

The case involves a 2010 deal in which the Nigerian government agreed to supply gas to a processing plant in Calabar that P&ID would build and run.

In 2012, P&ID took the government to arbitration over the failure of the deal.

The tribunal, made up of Lord Hoffman (presiding arbitrator), Chief Bayo Ojo (Nigeria’s arbitrator) and Sir Anthony Evans (P&ID’s), was organised in London under the rules of the Nigerian Arbitration and Conciliation Act as part of the original contractual agreement between parties.

In January 2017, the tribunal ordered the Nigeria government to pay P&ID the sum of $6.597bn together with interest at the rate of seven per cent from March 20, 2013 until the date of the award and at the same rate thereafter until payment.

But Ojo did not sign the award as he dissented from the majority opinion.

Findings on Saturday showed that aside from the past NNPC GMDs and ministers of Petroleum Resources between 2007 and 2012, other government officials who might have played direct and indirect roles in the proposed project included the heads of the National Petroleum Investment Management Services and the Department of Petroleum Resources.

Among the ex-NNPC bosses is the current Secretary General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Dr Mohammed Barkindo, who was GMD of the national oil firm between January 2009 and early April 2010. His predecessor was Mr Abubakar Yar’Adua (August 2007 to January 2009)

Alhaji Shehu Ladan, who took over from Barkindo, was at the helm of the corporation between April 2010 and May 2010. He was replaced by Mr Austin Oniwon, who led the corporation between May 2010 and June 2012, while Mr Andrew Yakubu, who was appointed on June 26, 2012, left the position in August 2014.

P&ID said the gas project was proposed by its then chairman, Michael Quinn, to the late President Umaru Yar’Adua in August 2008 and the Gas Supply and Processing Agreement was signed by the late Alhaji Rilwan Lukman, who was the Minister of Petroleum Resources between December 2007 and March 2010.

One of the key officials at the ministry who worked with Lukman was his Special Technical Adviser, Mr Taofiq Tijani, who later became a Commissioner for Energy and Mineral Resources in Lagos State.

The ex-DPR directors are Mr Godwin Agha (January 2009 – April 2010); Mr Andrew Obaji (April 2010 – November 2011) and Mr Osten Olorunsola (November 2011 – June 2013). Alhaji Aliyu Sabon Birni, who replaced Tony Chukwudi after the latter’s suspension by the Federal Government in June 2008, died in February 2009.

During the President Goodluck Jonathan government, Alison-Madueke served as the Minister of Petroleum Resources.

The Irish firm said, “The project, after nearly four years of negotiations, discussions, and planning, was signed in January 2010. It was well on its way when Goodluck Jonathan came into office. His administration failed to move forward with the project, even though Nigeria was contractually obligated to do so.

“After it was certain the project would not go forward, P&ID attempted to find an amicable settlement with the Goodluck Jonathan administration. On the eve of his administration’s departure, a settlement agreement was reached, and rather than sign, Goodluck Jonathan kicked it to incoming President [Muhammadu] Buhari who let the agreement flounder – again, mismanaged to the very end.”

The Federal Government said on August 16, 2019 that it was taking steps to stop the enforcement of the judgment of the United Kingdom, Business & Property Courts (the Commercial Court), which awarded a cumulative sum of $9bn award against Nigeria and in favour of P&ID.

The Solicitor General of the Federation, Mr Dayo Apata, confirmed that the UK court, presided over by Justice Butcher, “granted P&ID’s enforcement application which converts the arbitration award secured by P&ID into a domestic United Kingdom judgment against Nigeria.”

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