BEING THE TEXT OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, ON THE FG DELEGATION’S RECENT TRIP TO LONDON AND THE LONDON COMMERCIAL COURT RULING ON THE P&ID ISSUE….IN ABUJA ON WEDNESDAY 2 OCTOBER 2019
Good afternoon gentlemen. As you are aware, a high-powered Federal Government delegation was in London the whole of this past week. The team comprises the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami; Minister of Information and Culture counterpart, that is my humble self; Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria Godwin Emefiele; Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu; Assistant Inspector-General of Police Ibrahim Lamorde and EFCC Acting Chairman Ibrahim Magu.
The team set off to achieve three main objectives which, even to the greatest optimist, seemed an uphill task at the time:
(a) – Change the narrative, especially on the international stage, on the entire P&ID issue, more so in the run-up to the 26 Sept 2019 court hearing on the case.
(b) – Apply for leave of the commercial court to appeal the judgement that recognised the humongous and unprecedented arbitration award.
(c) – Seek a stay of execution on the UK judgment that recognised the approximately 9.6 billion-dollar arbitration award to P&ID over a botched, 20-year gas deal with Nigeria.
2. Gentlemen, without being immodest, I can say categorically that we achieved all three objectives. First, we took London by storm, taking our case to international media outlets and Think Tanks like
AP, AFP, Reuters, Bloomberg, BBC, Financial Times, The Economist, The African Confidential, Royal African Society and the Red Lions Chambers, a leading Barrister’s Chambers in London, among others. We also met a group of experts and stakeholders. Our message was simple:
P&ID, a company without a physical address and no known investment anywhere in the world, set out to dupe Nigeria from day one, with the connivance of unpatriotic, corrupt and greedy Nigerians. The entire Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA), which P&ID entered into with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, is nothing but a fraudulent
contraption with no chance, or expectation, of success.
3. We then said that the unprecedented 9.6 billion dollars in arbitration award to P&ID constitutes an unreasonable reward to a company that has done nothing more than to engage in fraud and
economic sabotage. This runs contrary to the course of justice and is capable of bringing harm and hardship to Nigeria, and indeed the wider region.
4. Why did we say so? Because of the following:
(a) – A contract of this magnitude cannot be valid until it has been vetted by the Office of the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and taken to the Federal Executive Council for approval.
None of these was done. The sham contract was also signed in contravention of the Bureau of Public Procurement Act and the Infrastructural Regulatory Commission Procurement Act.
(b) – While the MoU for the project was signed in 2009 by P&ID Nigeria Limited and the Nigerian government (Ministry of Petroleum Resources), a ‘trick’ clause dubiously inserted in the MoU was curiously activated that allowed British Virgin Island (BVI)-registered P&ID to replace the original contractual party, P&ID Nigeria Limited, to sign the contract on Jan. 11 2010. P&ID, incorporated in BVI, is a shell company that has no history of any business except the phantom GSPA in Nigeria. Please note that there is no Board resolution approving the assignment of the contractual interest to P&ID BVI.
(c) – P&ID never kick-started the construction of the project facility, despite its claim to have invested $40 million in Nigeria. It also never acquired any land to build the gas processing plant.
(d) – There is no proof of any financial commitment by P&ID toward the execution and implementation of its own obligation as stipulated in the 2010 agreement. Similarly, the Central Bank of Nigeria confirmed there is no trace of any funds brought into Nigeria by P&ID
(e) – Two Directors of P&ID Nigeria have been convicted of charges of money laundering and economic sabotage. They are Mohammed Kuchazi, a Director of P&ID BVI, and Adamu Usman, a Director of P&ID Nigeria.
(f) – Suspicious payments were made to Mrs. Grace Taiga, the Legal Director in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources. Mrs Taiga was supposed to ensure that the interest of the country was adequately protected. Of course, the payment, transferred in three tranches, could only have been made in appreciation of the ‘good deed’ done to P&ID by Mrs Taiga. Also, billions of Naira in suspicious cash transfers were made by P&ID. Investigations continue into these transfers.
(g) – According to the contract, the gas for the project was expected to come from OML 67 operated by ExxonMobil and OML 123 operated by Addax. But none of the two companies was even aware of the agreement.
(h) – And finally, for such a supposedly important project, there was no budgetary provision for the implementation of the GSPA in the budget of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in 2010, and P&ID did not obtain the necessary licence to deal in petroleum products from the Department of Petroleum Resources as stipulated by extant laws. The firm also neither filed tax returns nor paid VAT to the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) as required by law.
5. Our message reverberated around the world, with over 150 articles published by major media outlets outside Nigeria within a week alone, according to the preliminary report on the top-tier international coverage, and went a long way in countering the distortion by P&ID and changing the narrative on the whole issue globally.
6. We also succeeded in our quest for a stay of execution, pending the determination of an application to the Court of Appeal (Our application for leave to appeal the judgement was successful, as I said earlier).
7. Now, let me go further to explain the judgement which was facilitated by the retained international legal Firm of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP, retained by the Federal Government in this case:
(a) The Federal government now has an unconditional permission to appeal against the decision of the Commercial Court recognising and converting the 9.6 billion US dollars arbitration award in favour of P&ID to a domestic judgment. The Nigerian government won a leave of the commercial court to appeal the judgment which P&ID had vehemently resisted.
The court granted the Federal government unconditional permission to appeal against its own decision, and the court rejected P&ID’s arguments that there was no basis for any appeal. On the contrary, the judge expressly recognised that the case was of major importance to the Government and people of Nigeria, and that the Federal Government had a serious case to present to the Court of Appeal that his decision was wrong.
All but one of the six proposed grounds of appeal by the Nigerian government were all allowed by the Commercial Court. This is a huge success.
(b) The judge also granted the Federal government a stay of any enforcement proceedings pending the determination of any appeal. He accepted the Federal Government’s evidence as to the weak financial status of P&ID and the fact that it was nothing more than an offshore company with no established business, staff or assets other than the arbitral award that it was trying to enforce and that it would be unable to repay the proceeds of any enforcement if the Court of Appeal overturned his decision granting leave to enforce the award.
The judge also recognised that the ownership of P&ID was opaque, and that a vulture fund stands behind it which had engaged lawyers determined to pursue a strategy including the temporary seizure of assets, regardless of state immunity claims.
The Federal Government is pleased that the Judge fairly recognised the merits of its arguments and the true nature of P&ID and its strategy, and that he granted permission to appeal against his own decision and a stay pending appeal. The Federal Government looks forward to its day in court in the Court of Appeal, where it is confident that it will receive a fair hearing of its case and that the order permitting enforcement of the arbitral award will be set aside.
Conditions Imposed by the Courts for the Stay of Execution includes:
(i) The Federal Government shall pay the sum of 200 million US dollars into the Court Funds Office within 60 days of the date of this order.
(ii) The Federal Government shall make a payment in the sum of 250,000 GBP, representing P&ID’s solicitors advance costs, within a period 14 working days.
(a) Gentlemen, I have gone the extra mile to summarize our week-long activities in London as well as the judgement of the London-based Commercial Court on the arbitration award of 9.6 billion US dollars to P&ID in order to put the record straight and knock the bottom off the argument by P&ID and its cohorts that we did not score a big victory in London last week. It was indeed a huge victory, and P&ID has every reason to be worried that the 9.6 billion US dollars arbitration award to it has a good chance of being overturned.
The Federal Government has a good chance of being successful in its impending appeal, otherwise the Commercial Court would not have allowed the appeal.
(b) Please note, gentlemen, that Nigeria will be able to demand for a refund of the 250,000 GBP payment to P&ID where the government wins on the appeal. This fact is being hidden by those who have been spinning the London judgment in their own favour.
(c) On the 200 million US dollars payment as a condition for the granting of the stay of execution, Nigeria has instructed its lawyers to seek the leave of the Court of Appeal to appeal against that payment.
(d) As I said in my press conference of Monday, 26 August 2019, Nigerians should remain assured that the Federal Government is taking all necessary steps to strongly avail itself of all defences customarily afforded to sovereign states under the United Kingdom Sovereign Immunity Act to fight and upturn any enforcement of the award. In the words of Mr. President at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in New York last week, we are giving notice to international criminal groups by the vigorous prosecution of the P&ID scam attempting to cheat Nigeria of billions of dollars.
(e) The Federal Government has succeeded in changing the false narrative being peddled by P&ID both within and outside Nigeria by putting across strong evidence that the company is nothing but a fraud.
(f) Please permit me to thank the Nigerian media for its largely objective and patriotic reportage of this whole issue, despite the attempts by the desperate P&ID to muddy the waters.
(g) Finally, and this is the most important point: For those who may still not understand the gravity of the judgement of the Commercial Court in London last week, let me say this: Had we lost our quest for a stay of execution and application to appeal in London last week, P&ID would by now be attempting to seize our assets all over the world. Remember they boasted, before the judgment, that they have started compiling a list of our assets which they will attach. But now, that’s an empty boast, thanks to the successes recorded in the court of law and the court of public opinion last week.
9. I thank you, gentlemen, for your kind attention