There are many ways to look at Nigeria’s surprise victory in the British court, in which the nation avoided a possible award of up to $11 billion in favour of Process & Industrial Developments Ltd (PI&D), a foreign company out to fleece Nigeria. The easiest way is to conclude that Nigeria dodged the bullet.
At a time when the country suffers foreign exchange kwashiorkor, being asked to pay billions of dollars would have been close to an economic death sentence for Nigeria.
The case was a bullet.
Looking at the other side of the saga, there is a clear view of an abnormal maturity of corruption from mere stealing to acts of sabotage by those authorised and trusted to act on behalf of Nigerians.
I am outraged to discover that some Nigerians charged with the responsibility of facilitating good outcomes for the nation would turn around to conspire with foreign racketeers to negotiate a bad contact on behalf of their county, and exploit holes in the contract they signed for the benefit of the other party.
Just when you think you have seen it all, you see a new one.
This particular case is so profound because it shows the elevation of corruption to a new height where the well-being of the nation no longer matters when there’s money to be stolen.
Nigeria, struggling to survive because of pressures on its foreign exchange reserves, would have crushed had the case in the British high court been determined against Nigeria.
Although the case went Nigeria’s way, questions must be asked about public service when public officials dangerously connive with foreign carpetbaggers.
A predatory international investor, PI&D, targeted Nigeria, colluding with deeply corrupt officials to get a contract favorable to it signed, with no intention of ever executing the contract, ultimately aiming to make its money from taking Nigeria to court over the contract.
The lead counsel for Nigeria in the case, Mark Howard, aptly described the intention of P&ID, saying it was “exactly the type of entity that was prepared to engage in bribery,” to achieve its aims – to undermine the administration of justice in Nigeria in the pursuit of, “riches beyond the dreams of avarice.”
After a decade of legal contention, Sir Robin Knowles CBE, found that the award had been obtained by fraud and in a way which was contrary to public policy.
The judge concluded that P&ID obtained the award only by “practicing the most severe abuses of the arbitral process” and denied the company of the largesse it had hoped to gain.
Judge Knowles further stated: “This case has also, sadly, brought together a combination of examples of what some individuals would do for money.
A predatory international investor, PI&D, targeted Nigeria, colluding with deeply corrupt officials to get a contract favorable to it signed, with no intention of ever executing the contract, ultimately aiming to make its money from taking Nigeria to court over the contract
Driven by greed and prepared to use corruption; giving no thought to what their enrichment would mean in terms of harm to other.”
The role of government officials in the Nigeria vs P&ID case is a complex and controversial one.
In collusion with P&ID, they collected bribes, disclosed secret official information and put themselves in a conflict-of-interest position, instead of protecting the interest of the public.
In 2008, the Nigerian government entered into a 20-year Gas Supply and Processing Agreement (GSPA) with P&ID, a suspicious British Virgin Islands registered company owned by some Irish businessmen.
Under the terms of the GSPA, P&ID was to build a gas processing plant in Nigeria and supply gas to the Nigerian government – which it never did. In return, the Nigerian government agreed to pay P&ID a fee of $9.6 billion – which it never paid.
With the GSPA never implemented, in 2012 P&ID initiated arbitration proceedings against the Nigerian government, as it had hoped for from the start.
In 2019, an arbitral tribunal awarded P&ID $6.6 billion in damages, plus interest.
The administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan reached an out-of-court agreement and passed on disbursement to the administration of President Buhari.
On this one, Nigerians must praise Buhari for acting in the best interest of the country.
Buhari balked at the idea of paying the negotiated sum, bravely deciding to challenge the enforcement of the award before the English Commercial Court.
But the London court added $2.4 billion in interest, making it $9bn. Buhari was undaunted.
The Nigerian government appealed the arbitral award, arguing that it is fraudulent. The government has also accused P&ID of bribing government officials in order to secure the project.
According to court documents and media reports, top government officials, living and dead, were involved in collecting bribes in the Nigeria vs P&ID case.
Those reportedly involved include the late Mr. Rilwanu Lukman, former Minister of Petroleum Resources; Mr. Taofiq Tijani, a former NNPC official; the late Mrs. Grace Taiga, former director of Legal Services at the Ministry as well as the duo of Prof., Uzo, and Dr. Alimi, unidentified individuals who are alleged to have distributed bribes on behalf of P&ID.
General Theophilus Danjuma, an influential Nigerian, was also implicated.
At the center of the case was Mrs Grace Taiga, who was a former Director of Legal Services at the Nigerian Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
She served from 2004 to 2010, a time during which she was key in negotiating the GSPA between P&ID and the Nigerian government.
According to court documents and media reports, Taiga was involved in collecting bribes from P&ID in exchange for her support for the GSPA.
She is also alleged to have ignored due process in giving legal advice on the GSPA.
In 2019, Taiga was arrested and charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) with money laundering and fraud.
She was released on bail and was on trial at the time of her death in September 2023.
Taiga’s role in the Nigeria vs P&ID case is particularly worrying because she was a high-ranking government official charged with the negotiating and approving the GSPA.
The fact that she is alleged to have been bribed by P&ID raised serious concerns.
Taiga was never convicted of any crime in relation to the Nigeria vs P&ID case. She died before her trial could be completed.
However, the allegations against her are serious enough to raise important questions about the honesty of government officials in the Nigerian oil and gas industry.
In addition to allegations of corruption, Taiga has also been criticized for failing to adequately protect Nigeria’s interests.
Overall, Grace Taiga’s role in the Nigeria vs P&ID case is a complex and controversial one.
She was a key figure in the negotiation and approval of the GSPA, and she was alleged to have collected gratification even during her retirement.
If there was ever any face for the Nigerian petroleum sector, it was Rilwanu Lukman’s.
Rilwanu Lukman was a much-recycled Minister of Petroleum Resources also popular in OPEC.
He was a highly respected oil industry figure reputed for integrity and competence.
However, Lukman’s involvement in the Nigeria vs P&ID case raised serious questions about his legacy.
In 2019, Attorney General Abubakar Malami accused Lukman of approving the GSPA without due process and of avoiding some lapses in P&ID’s proposal.
Malami also alleged that Lukman had ordered his aide, Taofiq Tijani, to “deliberately overlook” some lapses in P&ID’s contract.
Lukman’s family has denied these allegations, arguing that he was a victim of a smear campaign by Malami.
Lukman died in 2014 and was therefore unable to defend himself against the allegations.
However, the allegations are so serious to raise concerns about the trend of corruption in high places.
If the allegations against Lukman are true, it would mean that he was responsible for approving the GSPA, which was a bad deal for Nigeria.
He would also have been responsible for overseeing the implementation of the GSPA, which failed to happen.
Lukman’s involvement in the P&ID case is a reminder that even the most respected government officials can be susceptible to corruption.
The case beams the light on the judiciary. Alfa Belgore, is a former Chief Justice of Nigeria who was hired by P&ID to provide legal advice on the GSPA in 2010. He also acted as a legal expert for P&ID during the arbitration proceedings.
Belgore’s involvement raises serious ethical concerns. Some critics have argued that Belgore’s decision to work for P&ID was a conflict of interest, given his previous position as Chief Justice of Nigeria.
Others argued that Belgore’s involvement undermined the public’s trust in the Nigerian judiciary.
Belgore defended his involvement, arguing that he was simply providing professional legal expertise to a client.
He has also denied that there was any conflict of interest.
The Nigerian Senate’s investigation into his role in the case found that Belgore had violated the Nigerian Code of Conduct for Public Officers by working for P&ID.
It has also peen alleged that official secrets made their way to PI&D through public officials, who divulged secrets in exchange for money.
Funso Kupolokun was the Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) from 2003 to 2007 who played a key role in the negotiation and approval of the GSPA.
He was accused of corruption and collusion with P&ID.
Malami accused Kupolokun of approving the GSPA without due process and of overlooking some lapses in P&ID’s proposal.
The P&ID case raises the question of how many Nigerians out there are willing to sell the rest of us into economic slavery for self-aggrandizement
Malami also alleged that Kupolokun ordered his aide, Taofiq Tijani, to “deliberately overlook” some lapses in P&ID.
The biggest fish in the scandal is General Theophilus Danjuma, a power broker, billionaire businessman and a major player in the oil industry.
In explaining being implicated in the case, Danjuma said that Michael Quinn, the founder of P&ID, used his money and office space to develop the GSPA, and then applied for the contract himself without Danjuma’s knowledge.
In short, Danjuma was originally involved but not eventually involved.
Some critics have accused Danjuma of using his influence to secure the GSPA for himself. Others have argued that Danjuma was simply a victim of fraud.
One can slice or dice this case in many ways, but too many heavyweights and powerful civil servants being involved means one thing: Nigeria is sliding towards a dangerous territory of money over country.
We must begin to ask how many Nigerians are out there, ready to sell Nigeria for their personal benefit?
Let’s remember that the worst implication of slavery is not in that Africans were bought by Europeans as merchandise, but that Africans sold their kith and kin to white men as slaves.
The P&ID case raises the question of how many Nigerians out there are willing to sell the rest of us into economic slavery for self-aggrandizement.
We can’t wait to be sold by our own. We must find the robbers and decapacitate them. All those found playing disingenuous roles in the GSPA case should be made a spectacle of, so that other despicable Nigerians can be discouraged from the trade.