Nigerian government has hopes that the judgment by a London Court asking the country to pay $11billion as debt over the controversial Process and Industrial Development [P&ID] gas deal will be upturned.
The company claimed Nigeria contracted it to supply gas to deliver gas but reneged in the contract. The Nigeria government in closing arguments at a trial earlier in the week urged the court to overturn an arbitration award in favour of P&ID which has now accrued interest worth $11 billion.
The company claimed it entered into an agreement with Nigeria to build a gas processing plant but the deal collapsed because the Nigerian government did not fulfil its end of the bargain.
But Nigeria’s lawyer, Mark Howard, told the court that P&ID obtained its contract “by telling repeated lies and paying bribes to officials.”
Mr Howard alleged that the company financially induced top Nigerian government officials including those who chaired the government technical committee that reviewed the gas plant contract and several others.
He alleged also that lawyers in the Nigerian team during the arbitration proceedings were bribed.
The P&ID controversy dates back to January 2010 when the company signed a gas supply and processing agreement with the ministry of petroleum resources on behalf of the Nigerian government.
Under the terms of the agreement, P&ID was to build and operate an accelerated gas development project to be located at Adiabo in the Odukpani local government area of Cross River state.
The Nigerian government was to source natural gas from oil mining leases (OMLs) 123 and 67 operated by Addax Petroleum and supply to P&ID to refine into fuel suitable for power generation in the country.
However, P&ID alleged that after signing the agreement, the Nigerian government reneged on its obligation after negotiations were opened with the Cross River state government for the allocation of land for the project.
The company said effort to settle out of court has failed the litigation process was activated.
The Nigerian government said it has substantial evidence to show that there was corruption behind the deal. There was a “picture of industrial-scale bribery and corruption” with regard to the contract, the Nigerian officials said.
“This was not some incidental, minor contract on the side. It was fundamental to P&ID’s way of doing business,” Nigeria’s lawyer argued.
He added that the firm had real-time access to Nigeria’s “privileged materials”, many of which were obtained through “back-channels”. The Nigerian government accused the firm of suppressing vital evidence, bribery, and perjury among others to win the arbitration.
The two lawyers who acted for P&ID in the arbitration proceedings, Trevor Burke and Seamus Andrew, were also accused of breaching their obligations to the court by ignoring evidence of their client’s corruption.
“As with the corrupted officials and legal advisors of FRN, so too was the integrity of Mr. Andrew and Mr. Burke compromised,” Mr. Howard submitted.
“They were offered life-changing sums of money, contingent upon success in the claim, which induced them to look past evidence of blatant corruption (most obviously in the form of the FRN privileged documents) in the hope of reaching their promised pots of gold. They did so at the expense of their professional obligations.”
By Bosco Agba