The decision of a commercial court in London to grant leave to Nigeria to fully pursue its appeal on the subject of a fine imposed on the country in an earlier ruling of court in the contentious Process and Industrial Development, P&ID affair, has brought some significant relief to the nation.
As the facts of the matter outline, P&ID, which is a business entity registered in the British Virgin Islands, had signed an agreement with agents of the Nigerian government to take part in a project that would help address the nation’s long-drawn energy crisis. By hook or crook however, the terms of engagement were however to be skewed in favour of the foreign firm to the extent that Nigeria was soon to be literally trapped in a remarkably obnoxious deal from which it could not easily extricate itself.
When the depth of the details of the entrapment came to the fore in the life span of the Jonathan administration, and with P&ID dragging Nigeria before a UK court seeking to be paid damages on grounds of an alleged breach of contract, the issue had really become quite muddled and the Jonathan administration after pushing the files for a while, passed on the plate to the current government that was succeeding it.
Armed with a mandate to do everything that could possibly be done to correct and redress the problem, the incumbent Attorney General of the Federation, AGF and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN took up the gauntlet and commenced the process of getting justice and reprieve for the country.
With so many hurdles evidently on the way, many did not really give Malami and Nigeria a high degree of probability that the issues would be resolved in the nation’s favour. But Team Malami pushed all the same and here are we. It is therefore to the credit of the AGF and his team that they have worked so hard on this process of extricating Nigeria from the jaws of the lion and come this far with some preliminary success points to boot.
Also quite notable is the fact that the court has now equally ordered the release of the $200m guarantee that it had earlier demanded should be put in place and deposited as security for the stay of execution that was granted Nigeria to commence the appeal in the first place.
It will be recalled that that particular stage of the process had been initiated by the office of the Attorney General of Nigeria against the earlier judgement of Justice Christopher Butcher for the execution of the arbitral award of $10bn in favour of Process & Industrial Development.
Fittingly, many in Nigeria have now celebrated the judgement, noting also that the decision follows on the heels of what could be said to be the preliminary establishment of a somewhat prima facie case of fraud before the court.
One such enthusiastic citizen is CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele. In his published remarks on the outcome of the process, Emefiele had noted:
“Due to the substantial evidence of prima facie fraud established before the court, we are pleased that the judge has agreed to release the guarantee. We are also pleased that the court has rejected P&ID’s application to increase the guarantee, which was clearly intended to be a diversionary tactic and entirely misconceived.
“This release which is an accretion into the reserves will further enhance the nation’s management of the exchange rate of its domestic currency, the naira while ensuring monetary and price stability.
“This is a further and significant victory for Nigeria in our ongoing fight to overturn the $10bn award procured through fraud and corruption by P&ID and former government officials.
“P&ID and its backers, Lismore Capital and VR Advisory, are increasingly seeing their case slip between their fingers. They continue to resort to employing delay tactics, disseminating misleading claims, and taking every step to obstruct our investigations across multiple jurisdictions.
“The FRN will not rest until we secure justice for the people of Nigeria – no matter how long it takes.
“Investigations are ongoing, and we are confident that more of the truth will be revealed over the coming months.”
For one in the role of the nation’s chief purse keeper and prime guarantor of the monetary health of the nation at a time like this, Mr. Emefiele’s seeming boundless enthusiasm over the Nigerian victory can be most appreciated. This is even as many Nigerians have also been roundly scandalized by the emanating revelations on the shenanigans involved in the entire transaction and therefore gone ahead to condemn it in its entirety.
In the midst of all this however, it is important that we do not drop the ball. As such, it is also noteworthy that one person who has been quite upfront in ensuring this victory for the nation, namely, Attorney General Abubakar Malami, should be properly acknowledged and commended at this time. While also noting that this is indeed a time where many see very little to cheer about in our broader governance space, it is nevertheless most fitting that the focus and determination of the AGF in pushing this case to its present stage is properly noted and appreciated any ways.
In doing this, we think it is also appropriate for the Buhari administration to sit back and reflect on the tenor of its relations with the Nigerian people at this critical moment in the life of the nation. This is more so when this newspaper sees what seems to be a ‘we versus them’ hardening of positions between the administration and the mass of the Nigerian people. It should not be.
To be sure, and very clearly too, about all of the dispassionate field indicators out there are confirming this is not the most comforting time for the administration in terms of its relations with the mass of our people. But the way to go is not to fight the people. No government ever defeats its own people. It is rather a challenge that calls out the best of the patience, assessment and re-assessment skills that are open to those in leadership. And in our view the icing on the cake would be intensifying efforts in giving the nation more and more good news like AGF Malami has so practically done in the P&ID saga. This in our view is the way to go.