- Lai Mohammed
Reprieve came the way of Nigeria on Thursday as a UK Commercial Court granted a stay of execution of the $9.6 billion judgment debt made against the country over a botched gas contract.
However, the country is expected to deposit with the court $200 million for the judgement debt to be stayed.
A statement on the court’s decision in London was made available to newsmen in Abuja by the office of the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
The statement said: “Earlier today, the UK Commercial Court granted the Federal Government of Nigeria’s request for leave to appeal, enabling the Government to appeal the Court’s recognition of the UK Arbitration Tribunal in the UK Court of Appeal.
“The UK Commercial Court also approved the Government’s application for a “stay of execution” which will prevent the plaintiff, P&ID, from enforcing the UK Arbitration Tribunal’s earlier judgment while this case is heard on appeal before the Court of Appeal.”
In the statement, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said he was happy with the court’s decision.
Malami said: “I am pleased with today’s development in the court and see this as a positive resolution that constitutes an important step in the Government’s efforts to defend itself in a fair and just process.
“We look forward to challenging the UK Commercial Court’s recognition of the Tribunal’s decision in the UK Court of Appeal, uncovering P&ID’s outrageous approach for what it is: a sham based on fraudulent and criminal activity developed to profit from a developing country.”
News Agency of Nigeria reports Mohammed; Malami; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; and Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, had been in the UK since the beginning of the week over the case.
The court had in a ruling on August 16 authorised an Irish engineering and project management company, Process and Industrial Developments Limited, to seize the $9.6 billion, about N3.5 trillion, in Nigerian assets over the failed contract.
The court ruling was a fallout of a botched 20-year Gas and Supply Processing Agreement and the subsequent award made in July 2015 in favour of P&ID by an arbitration panel sitting in London.
The GSPA was purportedly entered into in 2010 between the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and P&ID.
In the failed contract, P&ID was to build a gas processing facility to refine associated natural gas into non-associated gas to power the national electric grid.
For its part, the Ministry was to build pipeline to supply gas to P&ID facility to be located in Adiabo, Odukpani LGA, Cross River State.
The agreement went sour because the company, which did not build any facility at the agreed site, blamed the Ministry for not constructing the pipeline for gas supply, alleging that it had committed $40 million into the contract.
Meanwhile, P&ID said it welcomes the ruling.
It said in a statement on Thursday: “The Court has ruled that the Nigerian Government must put up $200 million to maintain a stay of execution whilst it pursues an appeal against enforcement of the now $9.6 billion award in favor of P&ID. The Nigerian Government will now have to put its money where its mouth is if it wants to avoid immediate seizure of assets.
“The Nigerian Government’s recent media exercise to allege fraud against P&ID turned out to be a red herring. Indeed, the Nigerian Government did not present any evidence to support Attorney General Malami’s ‘findings’ from his sham investigation. The Nigerian Government knows there was no fraud and the allegations are merely political theater designed to deflect attention from its own shortcomings.”