The ruling by Judge Robin Knowles of the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales, which ruled that the $6.6bn arbitral award against Nigeria was obtained by fraud, leaves room for the loser to appeal, an indication that the matter isn’t completely over.
“I was asked by Lord Wolfson KC in closing that should my judgment conclude in favour of Nigeria, as it does, to leave over the question of the order the Court should make so that the parties have the opportunity to present argument once they have
considered the judgment. I respect that request and will hear that argument as soon as that can be arranged,” Knowles said.
This pronouncement leaves room for the legal representatives of Process & Industry Developments (P&ID) Ltd to return after studying the judgment and make a case against the ruling. The judge also said it did not agree with all of Nigeria’s allegations.
Nigeria had been embroiled in a fight with P&ID over a failed 2010 deal to develop a gas processing plant over which it was inflicted a $9bn judgment which has now risen to over $11bn.
P&ID claimed Nigeria violated the terms of its agreement by failing to provide gas for the power plant it wants to build for the country.
This frustrated the construction of the Gas Project agreed to by the government of former president Umaru Yar’Adua and deprived P&ID the potential benefits expected from 20 years’ worth of gas supplies with “anticipated profits of $5 to $6 billion.”
The arbitral tribunal unanimously decided that the Federal Government had repudiated the GSPA by failure to perform its obligations under the GSPA and awarded P&ID was entitled to $6.6 billion in 2017. That fine along with interest has now risen to $11.5billion.
Lawyers for P&ID had contended that Nigeria was not diligent in the Arbitration and did not establish if the bribery had preceded the GSPA and whether the agreement had been procured by corruption.
Since the arbitration award was quashed on account of bribery to Grace Taiga, this is fundamental to the case. But chances of that succeeding may be slim.
“Nigeria first began to acquire knowledge of the bribery of Mrs Grace Taiga when she was interviewed by and gave a statement to EFCC in September 2019. I do not accept that reasonable diligence required an interview capable of extending to bribery or corrupt payments at any earlier point. I am also unpersuaded that an interview with Ms Taiga before 2019 would have revealed then what was revealed by her statement in 2019. And even then her statement did not reveal the first bribe at the time of the GSPA; for that Nigeria had to go to the New York Court,” the judge said.
Meanwhile, Nigerians are calling upon the Bola Tinubu government to immediately begin an investigation into the actions of civil servants and other government officials who enabled this crime against the country.
Mike Andoaaka, a former Attorney General of the Federation welcomed the judgment and called on the government to begin an investigation into Nigerian officials involved in the fraud during an interview with Arise Television on Tuesday.
Across social media platforms, many Nigerians were also calling for a thorough investigation of government officials who enabled the fraud.
“Nigerians demand that the Nigerian government set up a high power committee to investigate many contracts awarded in questionable circumstances such as this and punish those who have corrupted their ways in contract awards. Kudo to the British justice system,” said legal expert Jibrin Samuel Okutepa SAN.
Okutepa in a post on X, formerly Twitter, also said that if offers lessons for the Nigerian legal profession, the Bar and the Bench.
“Nigerians cannot be dishonest in practice and expect that we can progress as a people. First, there were no unnecessary preliminary objections and none was allowed to stall the proceedings. The judgment in the case was delivered by email. No qualms. No one complains that their judgment was not delivered in open court.
“But here we quarrel with judgment delivered vide zoom even when we participated in the zoom proceedings. Nigerian legal practitioners need to learn from this case and to allow justice to be delivered without slaughtering it on the altar of undue legal technicality that does not allow merit of cases to be examined,” he said.