Nigeria is alleging that suspicious payments were made to officials involved in the award of a 20-year gas supply contract to a little-known offshore firm as it tries to overturn a $9.6 billion legal debt
New evidence from an investigation into the 2010 deal between Africa’s largest economy and Process & Industrial Developments Ltd. leaves no doubt that it was a “sham,” Nigeria said in documents presented at a hearing in London Friday.
P&ID, which has won several judgments against Nigeria for failing to honor the agreement, has denied all wrongdoing. The disputed sum is worth a quarter of the country’s foreign reserves.
A probe by the Nigerian anti-fraud agency into the P&ID case is ongoing, and “continuing to uncover new evidence of fraud and corruption on a regular basis,” Nigeria said in the documents.
Its lawyers pointed to a recent admission by Taofiq Tijani, a technical adviser to the petroleum ministry at the time, that he had received $50,000 in a “black bag” after meeting P&ID founder Michael Quinn.
Tijani used a $44,000 payment from a P&ID-linked company in 2014, four years after the deal was signed, to fund his son’s wedding, according to Nigeria’s filings. Both Tijani and a government lawyer who witnessed the contract “received suspicious payments from offshore companies connected to P&ID,” Nigeria alleged.
Tijani wasn’t present at the London hearing, where P&ID is trying to enforce its claim, and Nigeria is trying to overturn the earlier decision.
“I have the right to remain silent,“ he said when reached by phone.
The P&ID case began as a private legal dispute in a London arbitration forum and has erupted into a corruption scandal that has affected Nigerian central bank policy and hurt the country’s ability to borrow on debt markets.
Nigeria has argued that P&ID had neither the ability nor the intention to build a gas power plant in the oil-rich Niger Delta, and that its deceased founder Quinn, a former music manager, was involved in fraud.
A tribunal of arbitrators ordered Nigeria to pay P&ID damages of $6.6 billion plus interest in January 2017 and the English High Court authorized the firm to enforce the award in September.
P&ID’s spokesmen didn’t immediately comment when reached by email. The firm said in December that the probe was “bogus” and “a desperate ploy by Nigeria to evade a legal judgment,” after investigators issued an arrest warrant for Quinn’s son in Ireland.
The hearing in London on Friday was held to determine a timetable for resolving Nigeria’s appeal.
While P&ID is seeking a swift determination of the issues, Nigeria’s lawyers said, “no doubt aware that fuller consideration will show the vast fraud perpetrated on Nigeria, and P&ID’s attempt to use the English courts as a vehicle of that fraud.” A trial on the validity of the contract may be held as soon as April 2020.