For those who know history and care for the economic prosperity as well as the future of this country, October 23, 2023 was a unique day in the history of Nigeria. It was the day a landmark judgement was delivered outside of the country, and which liberated her from the claws of rouges, hustlers, mischievous and international fraudsters who masquerade as credible, responsible, dependable and reliable businessmen.
Their antics have lasted for that long, but on that historic day, the criminals were exposed and roundly shamed.
Their humiliation, hopefully, would birth a new dawn in Nigeria on related issues in the future. Indeed, the country is full of gratitude to Justice Robin Knowles of the Commercial Courts of England and Wales, who, on that fateful day, ruled in favour of Nigeria and dismissed the enforcement of the $11 billion arbitration sanction slammed on Nigeria in favour of Process & Industrial Developments Limited.
Let’s go on memory lane: P&ID in 2010 entered into a dubious business agreement with Nigeria – to build a gas processing plant in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, South South Nigeria. However, the company raised the alarm, alleging that the deal collapsed because the Nigerian government did not fulfil its end of the agreement.
No sooner than later, the firm flagged off the legal tussle, which lasted for 13 years. This led to an arbitral award against Nigeria. Specifically, on January 31, 2017, a private Arbitration Tribunal ordered Nigeria to pay the sum of $6.6 billion to P&ID plus interest effective from March 20, 2013. With the cumulative interest rate fixed at seven percent, which is $1 million a day, the accrued sum arrived at over $11 billion to be coughed out by Nigeria!
Dissatisfied with the ruling, Nigeria applied for an extension of time and relief from sanctions. Happily, the application, in September 2020, was granted by Justice Ross Cranston of the Business and Property Courts, also of England and Wales.
However, over three weeks ago, the sweet victory and final relief came from abroad and the needless legal tussle was finally laid to rest. President Bola Tinubu trailed the blaze in singing the victorious tune after the judgement. Tinubu reacted through a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Ajuri Ngelale.
Delightful Tinubu declared: “This landmark judgement proves conclusively that nation states will no longer be held hostage by economic conspiracies between private firms and solitarily corrupt officials who conspire to extort and in debt the very nations they swear to defend and protect. Today’s victory is not for Nigeria alone, it is victory for our long exploited continent and for the developing world at large, which has for too long been on the receiving end of unjust economic malpractice and overt exploitation. Nigeria is appreciative of the tremendous efforts of the defence team and acknowledges the role of the Federal Ministry of Justice and the Office of the Attorney-General in the process of defending Nigeria’s interest in this case.”
Tinubu’s reaction was like a teaser, compared to the critical and instructive submissions by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), while addressing State House Correspondents in Abuja on the judgement. The AGF recalled that despite dragging the government to court for an agreement it allegedly entered into with the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources to establish a gas processing plant in Calabar, shockingly, P&ID did not secure any land site in the first place!
The Minister informed Justice Knowles concluded that P&ID obtained the award only by “practising the most severe abuses of the arbitral process”. Fagbemi inferred the jurists as holding: “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 others.”
The Minister pointed out that success recorded was as a result of close inter-agency collaboration of the Federal Government’s team comprising his office; Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nigerian Police Force, Central Bank of Nigeria, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Department of State Services and Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit.
Now the most central and critical aspect of the Minister’s post-judgement address. He declared: “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.”
Indeed, it’s this aspect of criminal attempt to swindle and defraud Nigeria we have keen interest in. Truly, the country, through the ruling, has been liberated from another economic enslavement, which it had suffered many years back from various international financial organisations. In the past, the country has been the victim of spurious foreign loans which attracted “compound” interests, not to mention many suspicious international transactions like that of the P&ID that call for a “third eye” check and thorough scrutiny.
We therefore hold that for this fake and failed transaction to have started in the first place and taken the country too long and so long, there couldn’t have been smoke without fire. And like a Yoruba adage says: “Bi iku ile obapani, ti ode ko le pani (an intruder strikes with the aid of an insider).”
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To this end, as the country savours the recent victory, it’s also very significant that the Federal Government constitutes an independent fact finding body to unveil all parties that were involved, prosecute them and let full justice be done. We suggest that the Federal Government through the AGF’s office should and must carry out this extra and final task on the saga. This is notwithstanding the ongoing court case on the issue in which one of the major players recently died.
We maintain that it’s when this is done the October 23 judgement would in the word of AGF truly become a “pointer to others who might be nursing or nurturing any plan to swindle Nigeria”. We insist that the culprits, when unveiled, should not be sWe can’t wait to see the Federal Government threading this courageous path.