US based business publication, Bloomberg, has done an exposé on how Nigeria fell into the trap of a dying Irish company, Process and Industrial Developments Ltd (P&ID) which now has pending judgement fine of $9.6bn against the country.
According to the report, the President Umaru Musa Ya’Adua government had in an attempt to end gas flaring in the Niger Delta, and to use oilfield gas to generate electricity, contracted a handful of small companies, of which P&ID was one.
The contract, however, failed to materialise as the fundamentals were wrong and couldn’t have been achieved.
“In 2008 the Nigerian government said it would end flaring by using oilfield gas to generate electricity. The minister of petroleum resources acknowledged that the challenge would be “enormous.” Converting gas requires it to be captured, transported, refined, and piped back to power plants and onto the grid,” the report said.
“Officials struggled to persuade big multinationals to invest in the required infrastructure, so concessions were granted to 13 smaller companies, some virtually unknown. One was Process and Industrial Developments Ltd., or P&ID, which was registered in the British Virgin Islands but had no website or track record. Its chairman was Michael “Mick” Quinn, a 68-year-old Irishman with a rakish mustache and decades of experience in Nigeria, mostly as a military contractor.
“Quinn knew powerful people, including the petroleum minister, who guaranteed P&ID a 20-year supply of “wet,” or unrefined, gas for a plant the company would build. The raw material would be supplied for free, to be treated and returned at no cost. P&ID would instead profit from the byproducts, butane and propane. Everyone stood to benefit, not least the villagers whose homes would be lit by electricity rather than the wan glow of flaming methane.
“Then the plan fell apart. The government failed to secure any waste gas from oil companies, let alone link up the necessary pipeline, and the plant was never built. In 2012, P&ID notified the oil ministry that it was suing for breach of contract in a London arbitration forum. After a set of closed legal proceedings, judges awarded P&ID $6.6 billion, one of the biggest amounts a company has won from a sovereign state. When Nigeria dragged its feet on payment, P&ID teamed up with a hedge fund and moved the case to public courts, where it could ask judges to seize state assets, including bank accounts and cargo ships.
“In the summer of 2018, a man who’d worked for Quinn contacted Joseph Pizzurro, a veteran New York lawyer hired by Nigeria to lead its defense in the U.S. The caller wanted to talk about the P&ID case. “I don’t think it’s genuine,” the man said, according to an account he gave Bloomberg Businessweek on condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety. He told Pizzurro that Quinn had conspired with officials to profit from government projects that were doomed from the start and that P&ID was one of at least three such lawsuits involving Quinn. The caller couldn’t provide enough evidence to substantiate his claims, though, and he didn’t contact Pizzurro again.
“This August, P&ID won a ruling from a London judge allowing the firm to start seizing Nigerian assets. Hailed as a vindication by Quinn’s company, it caused an outcry in Nigeria. The country’s finance minister said at a press conference that the size of the award, which has risen above $9 billion with interest, meant all Nigerians would pay a price. The chair of the central bank said that the case has affected monetary policy. Toward the end of the month, the justice ministry opened a corruption investigation into how the gas plant deal was struck. “The contract was designed to fail right from inception,” attorney general Abubakar Malami told reporters. If the Nigerian government is right, P&ID was an audacious scheme that had made unwitting accomplices of legal professionals, financial institutions, and politicians around the world.
“The company and its founders remain elusive. A Nigerian newspaper recently published a list of unanswered questions about the firm: Where are its offices? How many people does it employ? How did such a tiny company win such a large concession? Quinn isn’t around to answer them; he died of cancer in 2015. But a close examination of his career, drawn from public records, leaked documents, and interviews with friends and former associates, shows that P&ID wasn’t the only Quinn project to end in disappointment, lawsuits, and corruption allegations. It was just the largest—the one that was supposed to provide his biggest payday.”
Read full report here