The Federal Government has assured Nigerians that there is no imminent threat to Nigeria’s assets in spite the recent award of 9.6 billion dollars judgment debt by a UK court over a botched contract.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed gave the assurance on Tuesday in Abuja at a news conference on the court ruling authorising Process and Industrial Developments Ltd. (P&ID) to seize 9.6 billion dollars in Nigerian assets.
The briefing was jointly addressed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajia Zainab Ahmed; and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele.
Mohammed noted that contrary to reports in certain quarters, the country is not about to lose any of its assets to P&ID.
“In the first instance, the enforcement of the award cannot even commence now because the Judge in the UK court ordered that P&ID cannot enforce the judgment against Nigeria until after the court resumes from its current vacation.
“What this means is that enforcement action cannot begin until further hearing on the matter, which will take place on a date to be determined by the court upon its resumption.
“The Federal Government, therefore, wishes to use this opportunity to assure Nigerians that there is no immediate threat to Nigeria’s assets as has been wrongly interpreted by a section of the media.
“Nigerians should be assured that the Federal Government is taking all necessary steps to appeal the decision of the UK Court.
“The government will seek for a Stay of Execution of the decision, to defend its rights and to protect the assets of the people,’’ he said.
The minister assured that the Federal Government would avail itself of all defence customarily afforded to sovereign states under the United Kingdom Sovereign Immunity Act to stave off any enforcement of the award.
He, therefore, appealed to the sense of patriotism of the media in the reportage of the sensitive matter.
“It is capable of threatening the very existence of the country, especially as some media outfits have clearly thrown overboard objectivity and patriotism in their very biased reporting of this matter,’’ he said.
Mohammed said experts’ analysis of the damages awarded by the court, showed that “it was clearly unreasonable, unjustifiable and manifestly excessive and exorbitant.
“The damages over-compensated P&ID on a frankly gargantuan scale and imposed a punitive award on Nigeria.’’
Narrating the issues that led to the judgment, the minister said it was fallout of the contract purportedly entered into in 2010 between the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and P&ID
“In a 20-year Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA) purportedly entered into with the P&ID in 2010, the company never performed as agreed.
“With the contract having suffered a setback, the case went to arbitration. P&ID’s claim in the arbitration proceedings was mainly for the loss of profit for the 20-year term of the GSPA.
“In an interim award, the Arbitration Tribunal ruled that Nigeria has breached the contract.
“Though Nigeria successfully applied to have that award set aside by the Federal High Court in Lagos, the Tribunal ignored this decision.
“Consequently, on January 31, 2017, the Tribunal rendered its final award against the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in the sum of 6.597 billion dollars.
“This was in addition to pre-award interest at the rate of seven per cent per annum, effective from March, 20 2013 and post-award interest at the same rate from the date of the award.
“This interest increased the size of the award to 9.6 billion dollars,’’ he said.
The minister said that after the arbitration award in 2017, Nigeria made several attempts to negotiate the award and resolve the whole issue amicably with P&ID but to no avail.
He said following an enforcement proceedings instituted simultaneously by the company in the UK and the U.S. the government engaged the services of the U.S. law firm of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP.
The minister also reiterated government’s position on the underhanded manner in which the contract was negotiated and signed.
He said indications were that the whole process was carried out by some vested interests in the past administration.
Mohammed said the saboteurs colluded with their local and international conspirators to inflict grave economic injury on Nigeria and its people.
He said following President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was conducting investigations into the company and the contract agreement.
The minister said the investigation was being conducted by EFCC in conjunction with the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP).