Says contract fraud being pursued to set aside award
Soni Daniel – Regional Editor (North) & Emma Ujah – Abuja Bureau Chief
The Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), told senior journalists, in Abuja, Sunday, that the federal government has commenced extensive investigations around those involved in Nigeria and abroad.
The Federal Government has begun moves to deal with local and international collaborators involved in the controversial P&ID contract, over which a whopping $9.6 billion award has been given against Nigeria by a British court.
Malami said: “There is indeed an ongoing investigation being extensively and intensively carried out by agencies of government. It is indeed concerted. It is borderless and there are no limitations as to who and who can be invited and who cannot be invited.
“I wouldn’t like to be specific on personalities but I want to state categorically that those that were involved in the process of drafting the agreement, in the process of signing the agreement and conduct of the contract are being investigated for the purpose of establishing the existence of fraud or otherwise.”
Those out to extort Nigeria
According to him, the present administration would not sell Nigeria’s interest to any group of people out to defraud the nation, under any guise.
“I want to state clearly that the Nigerian Government will not sell out the interest of the country and the Nigerian people in order to satisfy some elements who are consciously out to extort the Nigerian people for their selfish aggrandisement.
It is to be noted that while we are willing and ready to negotiate and meet the terms of agreements reached with all genuine investors which have done business or are still doing business with Nigeria on mutually beneficial terms, we will not allow fraudulent local and foreign collaborators to rip off the resources of Nigeria for no just cause in order to be seen as being nice or ‘investor-friendly,” he said.
Contract fraud being pursued to set aside award
Mr Malami said that the federal government was working on establishing the veracity of fraud insinuations which would be a good ground to set aside the award.
His words, “Along the line of negotiation, many fact came to light, inclusive of the fact that gave rise to the possibility of insinuation of fraudulent underhand among the parties involved.
“And for your information, legally speaking, fraud could be a ground for setting aside an award without necessarily having to go through the rules of seeking for leave.
“If you can establish fraud, there is no time limit within which you can raise it, as against appealing the award of the decision of the tribunal on the basis of law of facts.
“So when fraudulent insinuations manifested in the course of the engagement, it was only logical that Nigeria should have a consideration for investigation relating to the fraudulent elements which could afford the country an opportunity to have the entire award set aside if fraud can now be established.”
The minister explained that the federal government made attempts to negotiate with P7ID because by the time President Muhammadu Buhari’s government came onboard, “all opportunities for appeal, setting aside, stay of execution were closed, taking into consideration that the time within which to appeal had, indeed, elapsed.”
Questions being asked
According to Malami, the investigators were seeking to establish why such a contract would be entered into with a P&ID, which didn’t have its own office address, having used a law firm as its contact address and having no record of such a project anywhere in the world.
He added that the investigators were seeking to establish why that contract was not taking to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for discussion and therefore no FEC approval.
“Those who are clapping for P&ID and blaming Abubakar Malami and the Buhari administration for the huge $9.6 billion slammed on the country as a result of the so-called Gas Supply and Processing Contract awarded the firm on January 11, 2010, five years before President Buhari came to power and I became minister, should be kind enough to ask those who awarded the ‘so-called contract’ what it was all about and why there was no attempt by either those who awarded the contract and the contractor to implement even an aspect of it.
“Nigerians should also ask the PDP government that awarded the contract why it was given to a company, whose address is C/O of a lawyer’s office: Trident Chambers, P.O Box 146, Tortola, British Virgin Island and that means the company does not have an office of its own and has no record of executing any project of any kind close to what it was awarded in Nigeria,” Mr Malami said.
Further questions the minister said must be asked were:
*In whose interest was the critical contract awarded and what was it to achieve?
*Why was the centre of arbitration taken to London, and not Nigeria, a sovereign nation?
*Why was the contract not passed unto the Federal Ministry of Justice for vetting?
*Why was the Federal Executive Council’s approval not sought for in the execution of the agreement?
*Was there any Direct Capital Inflow arising from the contract?
*Why were NNPC, NPDC and IOCs who were to have supplied the gas component of the agreement not made parties to it?