Asks FG to pay $200 million security for stay of execution as case goes on appeal
Soni Daniel – Northern Region Editor
Nigeria recorded double victory in London Thursday as the United Kingdom Commercial and Arbitration Court granted its request to halt the payment of the $9.6 billion fine it had granted in favour of Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) over a failed gas supply and processing contract.
The judgment, which the court gave last month, according to the Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, would have frozen up to N3.2 trillion to the shadowy British Virgin Island firm, which is more than a third of next year’s budget.
However, temporary reprieve came Nigeria’s way following a robust argument put forward by both local and foreign legal team assembled by the federal government to argue the case at the UK court yesterday and got the legal breakthrough.
Specifically, the court granted the request by Nigeria for a stay of execution of its earlier judgment, which ordered the country to pay a humungous sum of $9.6 billion to P&ID and leave for it to appeal the entire judgment based on new evidence at the country’s disposal.
The court, however, asked Nigeria to pay the sum of $200 million as security fee within 60 days for the stay of the execution pending the hearing and determination of the appeal it lodged against the judgment.
During its earlier decision on August 16 this year, the court had converted an arbitration award held by P&ID since June 2014 as granted by Lord Hoffmann to a legal judgment, which gave it the leeway to seize Nigeria’s foreign assets.
At the London trial on Thursday, Nigerian team of lawyers representing Nigeria argued that the judgment granting P&ID $9.6 billion was flawed primarily due to its acceptance that England was the proper seat of the arbitration.
Harry Mantovu, a legal expert, who argued on behalf of Nigeria, pointed out to the court that the courts, not the arbitration tribunal, should determine the case and that the award itself was “manifestly excessive”.
Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who led the country’s eight-man legal team, said he was pleased with the ruling of the court and that Nigeria was determined to appeal the entire gamut of the award earlier granted to P&ID.
“We look forward to challenging the UK Commercial Court’s recognition of the tribunal’s decision in the UK Court of Appeal, uncovering P&ID’s outrageous approach for what it is: a sham based on a fraudulent and criminal activity developed to profit from a developing country.
“I am pleased with today’s development in the court and see this as a positive resolution that constitutes an important step in the government’s effort to defend itself in a fair and just process,” Malami said.
P&ID welcomed the requirement that Nigeria places $200 million on hold pending the appeal, which it said will force the nation “to put its money where its mouth is if it wants to avoid immediate seizure of assets”.
However, Process and Industrial Development, which is at the centre of the case, described the fraud allegations levelled against it by the Nigerian government as a “red herring”.
“The Nigerian government knows there was no fraud and the allegations are merely political theatre designed to deflect attention from its own shortcomings,” P&ID said n a statement.
The London court ruling, which awarded $9.6 billion against Nigeria drew serious ire from both local and international commentators and forced President Muhammadu Buhari to describe it at the ongoing UN Assembly speech in New York as a scam and promised to fight “the P&ID attempting to cheat Nigeria of billions of dollars”.
The list of legal experts obtained by Vanguard last night indicated that the country’s Justice Minister and Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, led the delegation, which included two more lawyers from the Federal Ministry of Justice-Anne Akwiwu, the Director of commercial law and Oyin Koleosho, a Senior State Counsel.
The legal team also included the Director of Legal of the Central Bank of Nigeria, S.K. Salam-Alada, Director of Legal in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Bala Tsanga, and Rotimi Oyedepo, Special Counsel/Prosecutor for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Two other counsel- Timi Balogun and Bradley Doline- are from the firm of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle engaged by the federal government to help in the case.