A United Kingdom court has today ruled in favour of Nigeria in a $11 billion suit between the Nigeria government and Process & Industrial Developments (P&ID) Limited over a failed 2010 deal to allegedly build a gas processing plant in the country.
The judgment, delivered on Monday by Judge Robin Knowles of the Business and Property Court in London, has been hailed by the Nigerian government as a landmark victory after it won its bid to overturn the $11 billion damages bill for the failed gas project.
The judge at London’s High Court said the case, which had stretched for years, exemplified the ravages of greed and corruption, according to Reuters.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, had previously had been ordered to pay the sum – representing around a third of its foreign exchange reserves – to P&ID Limited, a company based in the British Virgin Islands.
However, Judge Knowles found that P&ID had paid bribes to a Nigerian oil ministry official in connection with the gas contract signed in 2010, and had failed to disclose this when it later took Nigeria to arbitration over the collapse of the deal.
The UK judge noted that, “The Awards were obtained by fraud… and the way in which they were procured was contrary to public policy.”
Meanwhile, in a statement, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu said the judgment showed “nation states will no longer be held hostage by economic conspiracies between private firms and solitarily corrupt officials.”
President Tinubu commended the UK Court for prioritizing the merits of the case above all other considerations.
“This landmark judgment 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 indebt the very nations they swear to defend and protect.
“Today’s victory is not for Nigeria alone. It is a 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 defense 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,” the President stated.
P&ID had taken Nigeria to arbitration in London after its 20-year gas supply and processing contract to construct and operate a gas processing plant in southern Nigeria had fallen apart.
It would be recalled that in 2017, P&ID was awarded $6.6 billion for lost profits – a sum which had accumulated with interest to over $11 billion.
However, Nigeria’s lawyers went to court in London to overturn the award, saying P&ID had bribed senior officials to obtain the contract and corrupted the country’s lawyers to obtain confidential documents during the arbitration, Reuters reported.
Similarly, the timely observation and interventions of the immediate past Nigerian Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, was said to have been instrumental in how the P&ID case was identified as a fraudulent endeavour, according to a review of a UK court record.
According to reports, Sir Ross Cranston of the UK High Court of Justice Queen’s Bench Division Commercial Court had explained that the Nigerian Vice President was a regular fixture all through the review process under the (former President) Buhari administration, stating that the Vice President’s “fraud on the nation” statement in June 2018 turned the case against P&ID in Nigeria’s favour.
According to the judgment read by Cranston, Osinbajo’s involvement had begun in 2017 after he was briefed by the (former) Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice of Nigeria, Abubakar Malami.
“Following a meeting, on 13 March 2017, Mr Malami had written to VP Osinbajo, who was at the time Acting President, exploring five “scenarios” and making recommendations on each.“
“The first was to negotiate a reasonable settlement. The second was to undertake a “forensic and extensive examination of the original contract, Award and other Processes to discover loopholes to upset or vary the Award.”
The merits were said to be that a loophole might be discovered, for example, fraud, technical grounds or a conflict of interest of the arbitrators.”