The report that a commercial court in the UK has ruled that Nigeria must pay a UK firm, Process and Industrial Development Limited (P & ID) a sum of $9.6 billion or have its assets in the UK to the tune of that amount forfeited has generated more than a little interest.
For a country with a foreign reserve of $45 billion and sovereign debt profile of over $80 billion that judgment debt is quite a lot, potentially capable of rendering Nigeria even more technically insolvent.
Dayo Apata, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice and Solicitor-General of the Federation has told the public that Nigeria will appeal the judgement and apply for a stay of execution to forestall the enforcement order that has been granted.
Whereas this may be a logical step to take, even if it may achieve nothing in the long run other than putting more money in the pockets of counsel, there are specific issues that have been thrown up by Nigeria’s (mis)management of the case so far and the ruling of the UK court.
Here are the faces behind the $9.6bn deal below:
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the National Intelligence Agency and the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to launch a probe into the contract between the Federal Government and the Process and Industrial Developments Limited, signed in 2010.
The controversial contract has become the subject of a $9.6bn judgment debt imposed on Nigeria by a British court last week.
The president also directed that the contract itself should be probed with a view to identifying Nigerians involved in the signing of the deal in 2010 for possible prosecution.
The President’s decision to probe the firm and its activities were based on the fact that the Federal Government suspected foul play in the contract which was negotiated and signed under the past administration in 2010. But who are the past and present Federal Government’s officials that represented Nigeria to sign the purported contract 2010 between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the P&ID?
The late President Umar Yar’Adua was technically at the helm of affairs when the project must have been tabled before the Federal Government. However, he was on a sickbed in faraway Saudi Arabia on January 11, 2010, when the contract was signed.
Unfortunately, the soft-spoken President is no longer alive to say what he must have known about the contract that has the capacity to lead the country to steady hemorrhage.
President Goodluck Jonathan was Vice President at the time the contract was signed.
Although he was the most senior government official in the absence of his boss, he was treated as a ‘leper’ and an outsider by the ‘cabal’ that took charge of government business in the absence of Yar’Adua.
However, on the doctrine of necessity subscribed to by the National Assembly, Jonathan became the acting President on February 10, 2010, and went on to be sworn in as President on May 6, 2010, upon the demise of Yar’Adua.
Our correspondent learned that questions were asked on the contract when Jonathan became president but they were not answered. Thus, the fire kept smoldering.
Before Jonathan quit office on May 29, 2015, P&ID and the Federal Government had agreed at a settlement fee of $850m but he decided to hand over the liability to the incoming government of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Attorney General, Michael Aondoakaa
Michael Aondoakaa was appointed the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation on July 26, 2007. He was reputed to be one of the members of the ‘cabal’ that ruled Nigeria in the absence of Yar’Adua.
It was not yet clear what role he played in the P&ID contract saga. However, as the chief law officer of the country, he was expected to review major contracts before the country could sign such a document.
He lost his seat in the cabinet on February 10, 2010 – the day that Jonathan assumed power as the acting President.
Rilwan Lukman, an engineer, was a recurring decimal in the nation’s oil and gas industry. He was appointed Honorary Advisor to Umar Yar’Adua on energy and strategic matters in August 2007 and on December 2008, he was appointed the Minister of Petroleum Resources.
So, he was the Minister of Petroleum Resources at the time the ministry signed the contract with P&ID. However, he left the cabinet on March 17, 2010, when Jonathan dissolved the Federal Executive Council. He died on July 21, 2014.
Liyel Imoke and Cross River State
Liyel Imoke was the governor of Cross River State between May 2007 and May 2015. Although the GSPA contract was a federal project, his administration might have played an outsider role in the project. As of the press time, it was not certain what role the state government under him played.
Dr. Mansur Mukhtar, an economist and experienced technocrat in both the public-private sector, was Minister of Finance at the time the deal with the Process and Industrial Development Limited was signed.
The former Director-General of Debt Management Office was appointed the Finance minister by the late President Umar Yar’Adua on December 17, 2008.
As the Chief Finance Officer of the country, a major financial transaction should not scale through without passing through his table.
The Federal Ministry of Finance Incorporated through which the government must have acquired 10 percent equity in P&ID is also under the purview of the Ministry of Finance.
Mukhtar left the government in March 2010 when Jonathan dissolved the cabinet.
Lamido Sanusi was the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria at the time the Federal Government entered into the contract with P&ID on January 11, 2010.
It could not be determined what role he must have played when the contract was signed. However, it is usual for the chief banker of the nation to be aware of contracts that will commit the nation to foreign exchange transactions.
Sanusi, who became Muhammadu Sanusi II, the 14th Emir of Kano, was appointed the governor of CBN on June 3, 2009. He was suspended from the apex bank by President Jonathan on February 20, 2014, in controversial circumstances.
Buhari and AGF Abubakar Malami’s role
President Buhari inherited the controversial contract when he assumed office on May 29, 2015. The controversy that surrounds it could have been settled by him with good negotiation.
However, he must have been too busy with preliminaries of taking over power to be bothered about settling a project that was not executed at $850m.
The President also failed to appoint a minister to take charge of legal affairs until November 2015.
An official of the Ministry of Justice had told a London court that the handover to a new government was responsible for the delay in implementing decisions reached with the P&ID.
Malami is the current Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation. He has been in charge of the contract suit since he assumed office.
Although he assumed office when the arbitration had awarded the $9.6bn judgment to the P&ID, the company accuses him of ignoring an offer of $850m to settle the case out of arbitration.
Malami has promised that everyone that led the country to the alley would be punished.