The Nigerian government has arraigned a British national, Mr James Nolan, before an Abuja Federal High Court on charges of complicity in the failed gas deal involving an Irish firm, Process and Industrial Development (P&ID), and their Nigerian associates.

Earlier on, a tribunal made up of Lord Hoffman (the presiding arbitrator), former attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN) (Nigeria’s arbitrator) and Sir Anthony Evans (P&ID’s), sat in London under the rules of the Nigerian Arbitration and Conciliation Act as part of the original contractual agreement between the parties.

In January 2017, the tribunal ordered the Nigerian government to pay P&ID $6.6 billion upon which the interest, since then, has taken the entire fine over $9 billion, an amount believed to represent 20%of Nigeria’s foreign reserves.

The London tribunal in 2017 awarded the sum of $6.597 billion together with interest at the rate of 7% starting from March 20, 2013 until payment is made. Last year, a British judge upheld the arbitration award P&ID, a development that threw up the matter into public knowledge and drew the attention of both government and authorities of Nigeria and Britain
Nigeria’s appeal on the matter is currently being heard by a London court, where Nigeria insists that the P&ID’s claims are fraudulent.

In addition to the appeal in London, Nigeria government has commenced the prosecution of those suspected to have played key roles in the alleged scam.

Mr Nolan, two directors of P&ID and a former director in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources are appearing in different suits.

Since his arraignment last year, Nolan is believed to be in custody of the Nigeria Correctional Services due to his inability to perfect his bail.

Federal government yesterday arraigned him, two others said to be at large (Adams Quinn and Niel Murray) alongside six other firms. Nolan, Quinn and Murray were charged as directors of the firms.

The six firms are; Ecophoenix Nigeria Limited, Babcock Electrical Projects Limited, Marshpearl Nigeria Limited, L. I. R. Resources Nigeria Limited, Kristholm Nigeria Limited and Lurgi Consult Limited.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the six separate charges accused the defendants of failing to declare their activities as specified under the Money Laundering Act 2011 as well as failure to develop programmes to combat money laundering, amongst others.

While Nolan pleaded not guilty to all the charges in the six different suits, the trial judge, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, entered a not guilty plea for the six firms even since they were not represented in court. Following his not guilty plea, his lawyer, Mr Paul Erokoro (SAN), moved an oral application for his bail.

Counsel to the EFCC, Mr Bala Sanga, however did not oppose the request for bail, stating that the major concern of the prosecution is the presence of the defendants in court throughout the trial.

In a short ruling, Justice Mohammed adopted the conditions as varied by the Court of Appeal in admitting Nolan to bail and adjourned till October 5, 2020 for trial.

It will be recalled that Process and Industrial Development (P&ID), a company based in the British Virgin Islands, had on January 11, 2010, signed a gas supply and processing agreement with Nigeria. The firm, according to the contract, was to build a gas facility in Cross River State where it would process wet gas supplied to it by Nigeria.

P&ID was expected to process the wet gas by removing natural gas liquids and return approximately 85% of it to the government in the form of lean gas, to be returned at no cost to Nigerian.

Nigeria, on the other hand, was to construct pipelines and arrange facilities for transporting the wet gas to the facility to be built by P&ID.

However, trouble started when the Irish firm accused Nigeria of breach of contract and dragged the country to London arbitration where it claimed that it had invested $40 million in the project even though it had not acquired the land or built any facilities for gas processing.

By Chibisi Ohakah, Abuja

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