By Ikechukwu Nnochiri – Abuja
Trial of former Director, Legal Services of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Grace Taiga, resumed before an Abuja High Court sitting at Apo on Thursday, with a witness, Umar Babangida, revealing that the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), neither signed nor approved the controversial gas supply and processing contract agreement that led to a $9.6billion liability judgement against Nigeria.
Babangida who is an investigator with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, testified before trial Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, as the second prosecution witness, PW-2.
He told the court that he was part of the team that investigated alleged fraudulent activities of Process and Industrial Developments Limited, P&ID, in the country, especially as it related to the gas supply contract.
According to him, the outcome of an extensive investigation that was conducted by his team revealed that the office of the AGF did not receive any Gas Supply and Processing Agreement (GSPA) between P&ID and the Ministry of Justice, for vetting and approval.
Taiga is facing trial over the alleged illegal role she played in the disputed gas contract that has pitched Nigeria against P&ID.
EFCC had among other things, alleged that she collected bribe through her offshore bank account for signing the alleged fraudulent Gas Supply Processing Agreement between P&ID and the Federal Government of Nigeria.
She was said to have signed the documents alongside the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, the late Rilwan Lukman.
Taiga was said to have signed as Nigeria’s witness to the agreement, while the then minister presiding over the ministry, the late Dr Rilwan Lukman, signed as Nigeria’s representative.
The prosecution told the court that the defendant violated various laws by entering into the gas supply agreement without prior approval by the Federal Executive Council and a certificate of no objection to the contract from the Bureau of Public Enterprise, BPE.
She is answering to an eight-count fraud charge the anti-graft agency preferred against her.
Meanwhile, in his Evidence-In-Chief on Thursday, the PW-2, Babangida, punctured P&ID’s claim that the contract passed through due process of approval.
He told the court that EFCC wrote a letter to the office of the AGF, requesting for the evidence of receipt of the said GSPA, vetting and approval.
Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Mr Abba Muhammed, the witness equally told the court that the Solicitor General of the Federation, Mr Dayo Akpata (SAN), in a response to a letter from the Commission, stressed that the office of the AGF did not receive such a request.
The witness said Akpata informed that after a thorough search of all the records and archives, there was no evidence that the office of the AGF received such letter from the Federal Ministry of Petroleum on the said GSPA.
He said, “The Solicitor General stated unequivocally in his response to the EFCC’s request that the office of the AGF did not play any role in the draft of the GSPA and did not receive any letter from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the P&ID in respect of the GSPA.”
Trial Justice Adeniyi admitted the letter from the office of the AGF dated September 17, 2019 and signed by Akpata in evidence after it was tendered without opposition from the defence counsel, Mr Ola Olanipekun, SAN.
It was marked as exhibit P12 (a-b).
Babangida further testified that based on the response from the office of the AGF, the EFCC latter contacted the former Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Mr Abdullahi Yola.
According to him, Yola, who served between 2008 and 2015, confirmed that throughout his tenure in office, the GSPA issue was never brought to his attention for vetting and evaluation.
Babangida also told the court that Yola disclosed to the EFCC he only became aware of the matter in 2015 when he had to prepare the presentation to the Federal Government on the matter.
The PW-2 told the court that any contract above the threshold of N50million must be vetted and okayed by the AGF and presented before the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval.
He maintained that from the outcome of the investigation, the statutorily approved procedure was not followed in the controversial GSPA matter involving P&ID and the Federal Ministry of Petroleum.
He told the court that two other firms controlled by promoters of P&ID- Brenda Cahill and Michael Quinn- paid aggregate sum of $21,000 and another 10,000 Euros into the Zenith Bank account of Taiga, who he said acknowledged receipt of the funds during her interaction with the EFCC.
Justice Adeniyi adjourned further hearing on the matter till January 31, 2020.