Former President Muhammadu Buhari has revealed that he decided to challenge the verdict of the London arbitration court in the P&ID matter despite pressure from “fixers” to achieve a “calm settlement”.
Buhari said he tasked his former Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari and former Attorney General of the Federal Court, Abubakar Malami, to seek means to fight the $6.5 billion verdict after the government uncovered massive fraud in the gas contract.
Buhari, president from 2015 to 2023, stated this in a statement he issued on Sunday and titled: “A matter of principle.”
The former president said he ignored all the lawyers who asked him to reach an agreement with the company. He noted that massive fraud perpetrated by the company helped lead to his decision.
“I tasked Abba Kyari, my Chief of Staff and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to find a way, even at that late stage and despite so much conflicting advice, to get us a fair hearing. Working with a number of different agencies and senior government officials, we began to uncover an enormous amount of evidence, not all of which was accepted by Judge Knowles,” Mr. Buhari said.
Buhari also criticized former UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and others who pressured Nigeria to pay the $6.5 billion.
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“Many contracts end in dispute. P&ID won a deal in 2017 worth $6 billion, with compound interest. People, including unemployed former British cabinet minister Priti Patel, were queuing up to insist we pay up, or risk Nigeria becoming an unreliable trade pariah,” she said.
In an article written in 2018, Ms Patel criticized Mr Buhari and the Nigerian government for taking steps to appeal the arbitration award.
He had written in City AM that Nigeria cannot continue to disregard international law and conventions.
The Royal Court of Justice in London, United Kingdom (UK), on Monday handed down the ruling that saved Nigeria from an $11 billion payment to the P&ID contract, Gas Supply Purchase Agreement (GSPA).
In 2012, P&ID accused Nigeria of failing to fulfill its part of the Gas Supply Purchase Agreement (GSPA) contract it entered into with the company in 2010.
Under the agreement that was later proven to be controversial, P&ID was to build and operate an Accelerated Gas Development project at Adiabo in the Odukpani local government area of Cross River State, while the Nigerian government obtained natural gas from leases of oil mining (OML) 123 and 67 operated by Addax Petroleum and supplied to P&ID to refine them and convert them into fuel suitable for power generation in the country.
The Nigerian government has been in a legal battle with P&ID since 2014. In 2015, the Goodluck Jonathan administration reached an agreement with P&ID for the Nigerian government to pay $850 million in an out-of-court settlement.
However, Buhari rejected the out-of-court settlement. In 2017, P&ID won the case and a court ordered Nigeria to pay $6.6 billion to P&ID with interest that had accumulated to more than $11 billion before the latest verdict.
In September 2020, the Nigerian government obtained a ruling from a British court to stay the unfavorable ruling on the scandal, and on Monday Judge Robin Knowles ruled in favor of Nigeria.
Here is Mr Buhari’s full statement:
A QUESTION OF PRINCIPLE
RARELY in modern times have so few attempted to take so much from so many. If Nigeria had lost its arbitration dispute with Process & Industrial Development in a London court on October 23, it would have cost our people close to $15 billion.
We won, and all decent people can sleep better as a result. Judge Robin Knowles said Nigeria had been the victim of a monstrous fraud. But it was very close. As the judge said: “I finish the case keenly aware of how easily the outcome could have been different and of the enormous resources that were ultimately required of Nigeria, as the winning party, to meet its challenge.”
But ordinary Nigerians never made the decisions that ended up before Judge Knowles. If Nigeria had lost, it would have taken not building schools, not training nurses and not repairing roads, on an epic scale, to pay a handful of contractors, lawyers and their allies, for a project that never started. .
How did you get to this point? How did Nigeria prevail? Was this something exceptional or something normal in a regrettable and unpleasant course? What are the lessons for the future?
The ‘P&ID Affair’ was already firmly established when I took office in 2015. A company registered in the British Virgin Islands, which no one had heard of, with hardly any staff or assets, had won a contract to build a processing plant gas. plant in Cross Rivers. The company was owned by Irish middlemen who knew Nigeria well and had done business in everything from healthcare to tank repair.
The previous government could not supply gas. The plant was never built. Construction did not start. P&ID did not even purchase the land for the facility. But the contract, incredibly, was clear: P&ID could sue Nigeria and claim all the profits it could have made over 20 years as if everything had been completed.
Nigeria was before a court in London, trying to reduce liability and costs. Back at home, the repairmen sought to reach a calm agreement. This is often the way. Many contracts end in dispute. P&ID won a deal in 2017 worth $6 billion, with compound interest. People, including unemployed former British cabinet minister Priti Patel, were queuing up to insist we pay up, or risk Nigeria becoming an unreliable trade pariah.
It was clear that the whole story had not been told. I tasked Abba Kyari, my Chief of Staff and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to find a way, even at that late stage and despite so much conflicting advice, to get us a fair hearing. Working with several different agencies and senior government officials, we began to uncover an enormous amount of evidence, not all of which Judge Knowles accepted. But he agreed that P&ID had paid bribes. He agreed that one of the founders of P&ID had committed perjury. And he agreed that P&ID had somehow found in its possession a steady supply of privileged internal Nigerian legal documents, outlining our plans, strategies and problems.
My own opinion is that this whole unfortunate affair shows how important it is to follow the legal process to resolve a dispute. It shows that if each party is given time and opportunity to present its case, the temple of justice can satisfactorily resolve all disputes without resorting to extrajudicial measures. It was definitely worth the fight: this was an attempted heist of historic proportions, an attempt to steal a third of Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves from the treasury.
But even at this moment it is worth pointing out what the English judge warned. The arbitration process in London “was a shell that came nowhere close to the truth.” We need better contracts, in the public and private sectors. And we need greater transparency: the reality is that if P&ID had not conjured such a far-fetched bailout, they may have found themselves in the same place as the myriad other invisible contractors who too often quietly seize Nigeria’s many millions of dollars. Dollars. extrajudicial agreements. Stronger sanctions are indicated for Nigerian public officials who have demonstrated collusion with foreign criminals to defraud our country.
Nigeria has won this battle against corruption, but the war is far from over. As Judge Knowles concluded: “Sadly, this case has also brought together a mix of examples of what some people will do for money. Driven by greed and willing to resort to corruption; without thinking about what their enrichment would mean in terms of harm to others. Others, which in the present case include the people of Nigeria, already disappointed in many ways throughout the history of this matter by a number of people in politics and administration whose duty it was to serve and protect them.” Well said.