The Process and Industrial Development on Wednesday denied offering to negotiate with the Federal Government over a recent contentious judgment of a United Kingdom which affirmed that it is owed $9.6bn by Nigeria.
This came as both Nigeria and the firm are set for a legal showdown in a push by the Federal Government to have the controversial judgment set aside in the UK court on Thursday (today).
The P&ID’s denial of an out-of-court negotiation with Nigeria over the judgment, followed media reports that it made the offer to have talks with the Federal Government after its conviction for fraud, tax evasion and other sundry offences by the Federal High Court, Abuja, on September 19, 2019.
Responding to an e-mail enquiries by The PUNCH on Wednesday, an official of a London-based public relations firm, iNHouse Communications, which has been receiving and responding to public enquiries about P&ID in relation to the $9.6bn judgment, Chris Rogers, said such “suggestion” of an offer to negotiate with Nigeria was false.
“Any suggestion P&ID has made an offer of negotiation or that there is an offer the Nigerian government is considering is entirely false,” Rogers said.
Responding to an earlier enquiry if such negotiation was going on, Rogers said, on Wednesday, “I have checked, and any suggestion that negotiations have commenced is entirely false and incorrect”.
Earlier on September 1, the company expressed its readiness to negotiate with Nigeria over the $9.6bn judgment.
The company, however, advised the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to “appoint and authorised a party to enter into real negotiations” instead of what it called the Nigeria’s “baseless slander and sham investigations against P&ID and its founders”.
The firm said in a response to our correspondent’s enquiry, “If the Nigerian government is serious about a willingness to negotiate then it must do so in good faith.
“This means that the Buhari administration must acknowledge the reality of the rulings of the independent Tribunal and the English Commercial Court, desist from its campaign of baseless slander and sham investigations against P&ID and its founders and instead appoint an authorized party to enter into real negotiations.”
The Federal High Court in Abuja had on September 19 convicted and subsequently ordered the winding down of Process and Industrial Development Limited and its Nigerian affiliate, P&ID Nigeria Limited.
Justice Inyang Ekwo made the orders after the two firms, through their representatives, pleaded guilty to the 11 counts of fraud, money laundering, tax evasion and other sundry charges in connection with a year 2010 contract leading to the recent controversial judgment of a British court affirming the $9.6bn awarded in favour of the firm and against Nigeria by an arbitration panel in the UK.
In his judgment, which he delivered shortly after the representatives of the companies pleaded guilty to the charges, Justice Ekwo also ordered the forfeiture of “the assets and properties” of the two firms to the Nigerian government.
Swiftly reacting to the development, the firm described the trial and conviction as “sham and entirely illegitimate”.
The firm said the proceedings followed “a systematic campaign of harassment, intimidation and illegal detention of a number of individuals associated with P&ID or the Gas Supply Project Agreement contract”.
Rogers, in a response to The PUNCH’s request for the firm’s reaction to the conviction, quoting “a spokesperson for P&ID”, said, “Today’s sham trial in Nigeria is entirely illegitimate, and follows a systematic campaign of harassment, intimidation and illegal detention of a number of individuals associated with P&ID or the GSPA contract.
“The individuals detained have not been afforded due process and have instead been pressured and intimidated by the government into making false statements.”
It added, “None of the individuals involved are current employees or representatives of P&ID. P&ID itself has received no communication from any Nigerian authority about the investigation or today’s hearing.”
FG delegation in last-minute meetings with lawyers, stakeholders
Also, members of the Federal Government delegation currently in London on Wednesday intensified efforts aimed at setting aside the judgment of a United Kingdom court that asked Process and Industrial Development Limited to seize $9.6bn in Nigerian assets.
The case is coming up in the UK court on Thursday (today).
Ahead of the court sitting however, the team consisting of top government officials and lawyers on Wednesday embarked on last minute meetings to ensure that Nigeria gets a favourable outcome.
A source close to the delegation told our correspondent that the team is not taking anything for granted.
According to him, members of the delegation continued their engagements with the media and foreign lawyers on Wednesday.
The Ministry of Information and Culture confirmed the last minute efforts in a series of messages it posted on its official Twitter handle on Wednesday.
The message read, “Hearing in the $9.6bn arbitration award to P&ID comes up in London on Thursday, September 26, 2019.
“FG’s delegation currently engaging with media and stakeholders in London, over the P&ID case.
“On Wednesday, the delegation held a series of engagements, starting with a stakeholders’ event, lunch with a leading Barristers’ Chambers in London and interviews with the BBC.
“The delegation includes HMIC Lai Mohammed, Attorney General and HMJ Abubakar Malami, IGP Abubakar Adamu, CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, Ag. EFCC Chair Ibrahim Magu and AIG Ibrahim Lamorde.”
Lawyers in the team include the Director of Civil Litigation, Ministry of Justice, Anne Akwiwu; a director from the CBN, S.K Salam-Alada; Timi Balogun; and Bradley Doline.
Others are a director in the EFCC, Bala Tsanga; a special counsel and prosecutor with the commission, Rotimi Oyedepo; and Senior State Counsel, Ministry of Justice, Oyin Koleosho.
Malami had in an interview with journalists on Sunday said the Federal Government was still considering all options in its efforts at upturning the judgment of the UK court.
The minister was asked whether the government would be filing a new case based on recent developments, especially the conviction it secured against the firm in Abuja on Thursday or would build on the previous judgment.
Two representatives of the P&ID had last Thursday 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.
On Sunday, the Minister of Justice said the government would adopt the option that would be most beneficial.
He said, “All cards are on the table, but it all depends on the one that has potency for setting aside the award having regards to the applicable law in the circumstances.”
Malami made it clear that the government team was not ruling out any possibility in tackling the issue.
He said, “No possibility is ruled out. The options available to us include the possibility of filing a new case and or using existing proceedings to seek relief of setting aside the award (of the contract). Nothing can be ruled out.”
Malami had also told Saturday PUNCH last Friday that the case had yet to reach an appeal level, but at the stage of determining whether or not the P&ID should be allowed to enforce the award of $9.6bn by an arbitration panel against Nigeria.
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 $9.6bn, it had yet to grant the firm the go-ahead to seize Nigeria’s assets in enforcement of the award given in favour of the firm.
The AGF said the Federal Government would tender, among others, the investigative report of the EFCC as well as Thursday’s judgment of the Federal High Court in Abuja, convicting P&ID Limited, which was incorporated on the British Virgin Island, and its Nigerian affiliate of fraud.
The AGF said the government would also tender the charges pending against firms and individuals who played one role or the other in the alleged fraudulent GSPA.
P&ID: Court grants ex-petroleum ministry director N10m bail
Meanwhile, the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Apo, Abuja, on Wednesday, granted a N10m bail to a former Director, Legal Services of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Grace Taiga, who faces criminal charges connected with the controversial P&ID $9.6bn judgment.
Justice Olukayode Adeniyi had on September 20, 2019, ordered her remand in Suleja prison in Niger State after the defendant pleaded not guilty to the eight counts preferred against her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The judge subsequently fixed Wednesday for the hearing of her bail application.
Ruling on her bail application moved by her lawyer, Ola Olanipekun (SAN), the judge said on Wednesday he had the discretion to grant bail to the defendant.
He then granted her bail in the sum of N10m which must be guaranteed by two sureties in like sum.
The prosecution had opposed the bail application. Justice Adeniyi, however, ruled that the prosecution failed to convince her not to grant the bail.
He directed that the sureties to be produced by the defendant must include public servants not below directorate level and must be resident in Abuja.
The sureties are to depose to an affidavit of means.
He directed that the defendant must not travel outside Nigeria without the court’s permission.
The prosecution accused her of among other charges, receiving a bribe through her offshore bank account in signing, alongside the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, the late Rilwan Lukman, the Gas Supply Processing Agreement between the Process and Industrial Development Limited and the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Ministry on January 11, 2019.
She was also accused of violating various laws by entering into the GSPA without a prior approval by the Federal Executive Council and a certificate of no-objection to the contract from the Bureau of Public Enterprise.
The charges are in connection with the controversial Gas Supply Processing Agreement which led to the recent $9.6bn judgment given against Nigeria and in favour of Process and Industrial Development by a British court.
Taiga was said to have signed as Nigeria’s witness to the GSPA while the then minister presiding over the ministry, the late Dr Rilwan Lukman, signed as Nigeria’s representative.