P&ID Offered Bribe to Secure 20yrs GSPA in Nigeria, Govt Tells UK Court
Nigerian government has said that Industrial Developments (P&ID) got the 20-year gas supply purchasing agreement (GSPA) contract illegally by bribing some officials.
Nigeria’s lawyer, Mark Howard on Tuesday, told Ross Cranston, a UK judge, that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has discovered payments to people involved in the project and their family members including Vera Taiga, whose mother, Grace Taiga, was a director in the ministry of petroleum resources at the time the deal was sealed.
Howard who spoke during the hearing on a dispute between Nigerian Government and P&ID said it discovered that one payment of $4,969.50 was made on December 30, 2009, and another $5,000 was paid to her on January 31, 2012, adding that P&ID claimed those payments were for health expenses.
“If Grace Taiga was in financial strain and she asked for the money from P&ID at this critical point and P&ID paid her in secret at precisely the time the GSPA was being put forward. That, in anybody’s language, is a bribe,” he explained during a virtual court hearing on the case.
“The nature of a bribe is not affected by what the bribe intends to spend the money on. The point is it is corrupt and improper to make payments to a government official when you are in the process of negotiating a contract with the government.”
The lawyer also said Taiga seemed to have a pattern of receiving money from companies seeking government contract as its investigation revealed that she also received money from two companies bidding for gas infrastructure projects.
He also hinted that Grace Taiga is awaiting trial to determine her role in the case.
In response to P&ID’s argument that Nigeria missed the 28-day appeal deadline, Howard said Nigeria only uncovered information about the deal in late 2019.
“Any legal team had to make a judgment call about whether there was enough evidence to argue it was a case of fraud,” he said.
Speaking further during the hearing, Howard told the court how Taofiq Tijani, the chairman of the government technical committee that reviewed the gas plant contract, had admitted to receiving $50,000 in cash from Neil Hitchcock, a deceased P&ID project director.
“The first payment was cash, the rest were through the banking system. The question is what was the essence of these payments? Mr Tijani said he had significant pressure to put the project through,” he told the judge.
“The payments we are referring to is a cash payment to Mr Tijani. These were disguised payments to cover up their tracks. October 19, £30,000, April 14, naira equivalent of €15,000 and same date €26,400 pounds and €13,317. These are all payments in connection with the project, which is described on page 34.
“My Lord, you look at these payments and look at Mr Tijani concerning these payments and you see that these payments cannot be accounted for. We are putting on one side the $50,000 that Mr Tijani said he was paid in cash.”
Howard, therefore, argued that the contract was illegal from the onset as P&ID, a company who claimed to handle large-scale oil and gas projects, spent millions of dollars in cash which is illegal under Nigeria’s money-laundering laws.
He said the company knew that it could not perform the project and thus, never, paid for the land where the project would have been sited.
“P&ID knew it could not perform such a huge contract, got the contract awarded through bribes and it knew it would extract money from Nigeria through arbitration or a settlement,” he said.
The July 14 hearing was part of the efforts on the Nigerian government to overturn the judgment the P&ID had earlier obtained against it.
Subsequently, Nigerian government obtained court clearance to request documents from a P&ID stakeholder and review bank statements of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Diezani Alison-Madueke and Rilwanu Lukman, former ministers of petroleum.
Recall that P&ID allegedly entered a gas supply and processing agreement with Nigeria in 2010. The company claimed Nigeria breached the terms of the contract as such took a legal recourse and secured an arbitral award against the country, which has accumulated to $9.6 billion.
Peace Obi with agency report