The Federal Government of Nigeria and Process and Industrial Developments Limited (P&ID), appear to be heading for a showdown as the outcome of the British court verdict empowering the latter to seize about $9.6bn worth of Nigerian assets is taking a new dimension.
The case arose from the 20-year Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA) entered into in 2010.
The Federal High Court in Abuja, yesterday, ordered the forfeiture of assets of P& ID and its Nigerian affiliate, P&ID Nigeria Limited, after conviction on charges of fraud and tax evasion.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in his judgment, also ordered the forfeiture of “the assets and properties” of the two firms to the Nigerian government.
He gave the orders in a judgment read after the two firms pleaded guilty to the 11 counts charges preferred against them by the EFCC.
While P&ID Limited incorporated in British Virgin Island was represented in the dock by its Commercial Director, Mohammad Kuchazi, P&ID Nigeria Limited was represented by Adamu Usman, who is also a lawyer.
Among other charges, they were accused of fraudulently claiming to have acquired land from the Cross River State Government in 2010 for the gas supply project agreement which led to the $9.6bn judgment.
EFCC investigator, Usman Babangida, gave testimony before the court after the representatives of the firm pleaded guilty to all the 11 count charges.
While urging the court to convict them according to their plea, the prosecuting counsel, Bala S. Sanga, presented to the court, statements of account showing massive withdrawals of dollars, some running into as much as $700,000 and some of which established the violation of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, as well as the law on Advance Fee Fraud.
He revealed that contrary to the impression sold by P&ID that it was established in Calabar, the company did not as much as acquire land for an office structure.
The EFCC said Section 10 (1) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act 2006, states that: “Where an offence under this Act which has been committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed on the instigation or with the connivance of or attributable to any neglect on the part of a director, manager, secretary or other similar officers of the body corporate, or any person purporting to act in any such capacity, he, as well as the body corporate, where practicable, shall be deemed to have committed that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.”
It further provided that: “Where a body corporate is convicted of an offence under this Act, the High Court may order that the body corporate shall thereupon and without any further assurance, but for such order, be wound up and all its assets and properties forfeited to the Federal Government.”
The judge reviewed the facts of the prosecution case which was not opposed by the defence.
Subsequently, making an allocutus, plea for mercy, P&ID’s lawyer, Dandison Akurunwua, urged the judge to consider “the forthrightness and candour” of the firms by pleading guilty and not wasting the time of the court in the trial.
Shortly after, the judge pronounced the two firms guilty and therefore ordered the forfeiture of “the assets and properties” to the Nigerian government.
According to Justice Ekwo: “In view of the facts, evidence and guilty plea of the defendants, the orders to be made were for the winding up of the companies and forfeiture of their assets, which is the position of the law.”
And in statement yesterday, EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, said the two companies were arraigned on 11-count charges, bordering on obtaining by false pretence, dealing in petroleum products without appropriate license, money laundering and failure to register P&ID with the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering (SCUML) as required by law, amounting to economic sabotage against the Nigerian state.
EFCC Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, on August 29, 2019 disclosed that the Commission had commenced investigation into the circumstances leading to the $8.9billion arbitral award against Nigeria by a United Kingdom court.
Conviction key to reviewing $9.6b judgement- AGF
Speaking on yesterday’s conviction of the two firms, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, said Nigeria now had solid grounds to seek review of the $9.6billion judgment against it.
Accordingly, the justice minister said Nigeria will meet with its legal consortium early next week in the United Kingdom in preparation for the case listed for Sept. 26.
In a statement issued by his office, Malami said: “The implication of today’s conviction is that Nigeria has a judicial proof of fraud and corruption as a foundation of the relationship that gave rise to a purported liability in the arbitral award.
“A liability that is rooted in fraud and corruption cannot stand judicial enforceability. Nigeria now has a cogent ground for setting aside the liability.
“Nigeria is expected to review its strategy in view of unfolding developments as it relates to conviction of some of the suspects that have admitted fraud and corrupt practices in the transaction that gave rise to purported award.
“Nigeria is meeting with its legal consortium early next week in UK in preparation for the case listed for 26th September.”
We’ll identify, seize Nigerian assets- P&ID vows
On its part, the embattled P&ID in a statement yesterday, vowed that it will continue its efforts to identify and seize Nigerian assets.
The company alleged that the Nigerian government continued to demonstrate no willingness to negotiate in good faith in order to find “a reasonable resolution to the debt.”
“As a result, P&ID will continue its efforts to identify and seize Nigerian assets to satisfy the debt as soon as possible,” it said.
The company alleged that the Nigerian government was executing a targeted campaign of unlawful and illegal detentions aimed at innocent individuals associated with the company.
Andrew Stafford Q.C. of Kobre & Kim, which represents P&ID, stated: “The Nigerian government, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, is carrying out a targeted campaign of detentions aimed at individuals associated with P&ID and the US $9.6bn arbitration award P&ID has won against Nigeria.
“The detentions are illegal, and appear to be aimed at coercing false testimony to support Nigeria’s claim that P&ID’s award is a fraud. Nigeria’s Attorney General Abubakar Malami has acknowledged that his aim is to provoke global opposition against P&ID, by undertaking these attacks.
“P&ID calls on the government of Nigeria to accept its responsibilities under the law, and to cease the unlawful detentions,” the statement said.
UK court’s judgement not altered – Kirsty Brimelow (QC)
The Head of International Human Rights Law at Doughty Street Chambers in the United Kingdom, Kirsty Brimelow (QC), said yesterday that the judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja did not alter the existing judgment of the high court in the UK.
Brimelow, a former Chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, said the Nigerian government will have to return to the UK court if it wished for the judgment of the UK government to be set aside.
“The High Court judgment of England and Wales remains in force… Nigeria needs to return to the court in England and Wales if it has a new dispute over the $9billion.
It does seem to be an extremely surprising development as previously, Nigeria’s arguments against enforcement did not involve allegations of dishonesty,” she said.