The Federal Government says it is seeking stay of execution on the award of $9.6 billion by a British Court against Nigeria.
The Nigerian government had been ordered to pay an Irish company Process and Industrial Development (P and ID) the amount.
Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, who made this known at a press briefing on Tuesday in Abuja, was joined by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN); Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; and the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Godwin Emefiele.
He said that President Muhammadu Buhari had directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, to conduct a thorough investigation into the activities of the Irish company to seize $9.6bn in Nigerian assets.
The information minister gave the assurance that Nigeria was not going to lose its assets to the company.
The minister said the President’s decision to probe the firm and its activities was 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.
He said, “We want to place on record that the Federal Government views with serious concerns the underhanded manner in which the contract was negotiated and signed.
“Indications are that the whole process was carried out by some vested interests in the past administration, which apparently colluded with their local and international conspirators, to inflict grave economic injury on Nigeria and its people.
“In view of the above, and in an attempt to unravel the circumstances surrounding the entire transaction, the Attorney-General of the Federation, with the approval of Mr President, has requested the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the National Intelligence Agency and the Inspector-General of Police to conduct a thorough investigation into the company, the circumstances surrounding the agreement and the subsequent event, which includes commencing a full-scale criminal investigation.”
Also speaking, Malami who was also in attendance, alleged foul play in the award of the contract for the construction of a gas processing plant in Cross River State.
Malami said, “The President has indeed directed that full scale investigation should be carried out relating to the circumstances that gave rise to the contract in its own right, and the eventual award as well.
“The criminal investigation relating thereto, has indeed become necessary in view of the certain antecedent relating to the contract in its own right and the eventual award.
“Insinuations abound that the contract was originally designed to fail fundamentally against the background of the fact that there were inherent element of hitches that were designed into it right from conception.
“When I talk of inherent element of hitches, I want to draw attention first to the fact that by composition of the parties to the agreement there were two parties – the P&ID which is the company and – the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
“As you rightly know very well, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources is not a producer of gas. Gas products are produced by the International Oil Companies, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
“So, when you conceived, signed and executed a contract for the supply of gas products without involving IOCs, NPDC, and NNPC as parties to that agreement, you know very well that there are a lot of questions to answer arising from the execution of that agreement.
“So, these among others gave rise to the insinuations or perhaps certain criminal and fraudulent conspiracies right from conception of the agreement. The fact remains that you cannot sign an agreement to provide a product that you do not have.
“The Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources does not have oil wells, marginal fields or gas products so how can the ministry sign an agreement without bringing on board those that are the custodians or the producers of the gas products with the purpose of supply of gas products?”
Also addressing the matter, the CBN governor said the allegation by the company that they had invested 40 million dollars in the project was false since the government had no record of any such investment.
He said, “We have heard and also read in the media that the P&ID or the contractor in this case had mentioned that it had invested close to about $40m in the project.
“On our part as the Central Bank of Nigeria, we note that the P&ID is a foreign company. As a foreign company, if you are investing either in a contract or a project in Nigeria, there are various options you will adopt in bringing in your investment.
“If you are bringing in capital, in which case you are bringing in money, you will fill Form A and you will also collect a certificate of capital importation.
“If you are bringing in machine or assets to execute your contract, then in this case you will fill Form M and also collect a certificate of capital importation to prove that you actually brought in money.
“We have gone through our records, we do not have any information in our records to show that this company brought in one cent into this country and we have accordingly written to the EFCC and the Intelligence Department of the Nigeria Police that are currently investigating this matter.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance described the judgment as unreasonable and an assault on all Nigerians.
She said it was important for all Nigerians to rise up to the task of ensuring that the nation and its citizens were not unfairly treated in the matter.
The minister said, “This matter that has brought us here today is a very very weighty one, an award of $9.6bn is equivalent to N3.5tn. N3.5tn in our annual budget will be covering for us the personnel cost which is about N3.2tn and some.
“So this award that is unreasonable, that is excessive and exorbitant, is also unfair and it is an assault on every Nigerian. It is beyond trying to compensate for a commercial interest. It is an assault on each and every Nigerian.
“For us in the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, we take comfort from the efforts that have so far been put in place by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to ensure that this judgment is set aside because the consequences will be unpleasant for each and every Nigerian.
“ I hope our brothers and sisters in the press will help fight the cause of our country. We will be doing that not just for this administration but for our children and their children. So, it is time for us to all to be up in arms to make sure that we are not unfairly treated as a people.”