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$9.6bn judgment against Nigeria: Justice Minister, CBN Gov. others head for UK court

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By Kunle Akinsola

 

Nigeria’s legal team headed by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami and the Central Bank Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, is in the United Kingdom for a  fresh legal battle against a British firm, Process and Industrial Developments Ltd.

The Inspector-General of Police, Mr Mohammed Adamu, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu are also part of the team.

It will be recalled that a British commercial court had in August affirmed the ruling of a London arbitration tribunal which in January 2017 awarded $6.6 billion against Nigeria over an alleged breach of a gas supply and processing agreement signed with P&ID.

The tribunal had ruled that Nigeria was liable for $6.6bn in damages, which increased to about $9.6bn with accruing interest.

Nigeria had through the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, on Aug. 26 described the judgment as an assault on Nigerians.

She said it was important for all Nigerians to rise up to the task of ensuring that the nation and its citizens were not “unfairly treated’’ by the deal.

“This matter that has brought us here today is a very weighty one. An award of $9.6bn is equivalent to N3.5trn. N3.5trn in our annual budget will be covering for us the personnel cost, which is about N3.2trn and more.

“So, this award is unreasonable, excessive and exorbitant.”

The British firm will return to court on Thursday to make  a final push for the seizure of $9.6 billion Nigerian  assets anywhere in the world.

Malami said the government was still weighing the options in a bid to upturn the judgment of the UK court.

He said the Federal Government would tender before the court evidence that the Gas Supply Processing Agreement signed in 2010, which led to the judgment of the British court, was rooted in fraud and corrupt practices.

The minister said although the court had ruled that Nigeria should pay P&ID $9.6 billion it had yet to grant the firm the go-ahead to seize  Nigeria’s assets in enforcement of the award given in favor of the firm.

Two officials of the P&ID had last week pleaded guilty before the Federal High Court in Abuja to charges of fraud and tax evasion instituted against them in respect of the contract leading to the controversial judgment.

The UK court has fixed September 26 for the hearing of arguments by the parties to determine whether to allow for the enforcement or not.

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