Nigeria on Thursday secured a landmark victory in its pursuit to overturn a $10bn judgment awarded against it in a case against Process and Industrial Developments.
Delivering his judgment, Ross Cranston, a judge of the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales, said he granted Nigeria’s application for an extension of time and relief from sanctions based on the efforts of the Ibrahim Magu-led Economic Finance and Crime Commission in establishing fraud and corruption in the contract.
The Nigerian Government had approached the court to establish that the contract was awarded on illegal terms.
Nigeria’s lawyers told the court in July that P&ID officials paid bribes to get the contract.
Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, had in a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari said Magu did not probe the P&ID deal diligently.
“By letter dated 26th June 2018 that was copied to the Acting Chairman of EFCC, the Chief of Staff to the President conveyed Your Excellency’s directive mandating the investigation of the P&ID matter.
"This directive was followed up by a comprehensive letter dated 28th June 2018 to the EFCC setting out facts and documents for the investigation.
"As important as this matter is with its attendant threat to our national assets, the EFCC did not accord this presidential directive with any serious attention until a year after around July/August 2019 when the scale had already tilted dangerously against Nigeria,” Malami said in his petition.
The allegation and others by Malami led to the suspension of the EFCC boss and his subsequent probe by a panel led by retired Justice Ayo Salami.
But in the full judgment seen by SaharaReporters, the UK judge claimed that he relied heavily on the role played by Magu whose investigation questioned the integrity of the gas supply and processing agreement Nigeria signed with P&ID in 2010.
“After the hearing, I received written submissions relating to the role of Acting Chairman of EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Magu. On 5 June, 2020 the Attorney-General, Mr Malami, had sent a letter to President Buhari headed.
“Flagrant abuse of public office and other infractions committed by Mr Ibrahim Magu".
“In the course of the letter, the Attorney-General stated that as regards the investigation of P&ID, although he had passed on the President’s directive in June 2018, the EFCC “did not accord this presidential directive with any serious attention until a year after around July/August when the scale had already tilted dangerously against Nigeria”.
“In view of the delay, the Attorney-General continued, he had involved the police. That had prompted Mr Magu to prosecute charges against P&ID, but without recourse to the wider team. Mr Magu was detained on 6 July 2020 and a panel is investigating matters. On 31 July 2020, after the hearing before me, a Nigerian news outlet published what purported to be a copy of the Attorney-General’s letter of 5 June 2020 and the reply of Mr Magu. In Mr Magu’s reply, he says that the EFCC investigation was conducted expeditiously in 2018-2019, and that a staggering and unprecedented volume of work was done in less than a year.
“After the report on 4 August 2020, the Attorney-General wrote again to the President under the same heading. He sought to clarify that his complaint was against Mr Magu and his lack of support within the EFCC for the P&ID investigation. The EFCC had begun the investigation, he said, but it had taken a lot of coercion from his office to have the investigation progress. Under Mr Magu, said the letter, the EFCC did not share information with the Attorney-General’s office or the police.
“In a further statement for the court, Mr Malami states that he has never seen what is reported as Magu’s letter and his understanding is that the President has never received it. He states that despite his criticisms of Mr Magu’s personal handling of the EFCC investigations into P&ID, the investigation itself made excellent progress.
“At first blush the speed of the June 2018 EFCC investigation is somewhat troubling. But in terms of reasonable diligence it was not charged specifically with investigating fraud. The Attorney-General’s letter to the EFCC of 28 June 2018, containing the President’s instructions, referred not to fraud but to a thorough investigation of the approved judgment of Nigeria vs P&ID circumstances surrounding the GSPA and the subsequent events.
"In my view, Mr Malami underplayed the work which was undertaken over the June 2018-August 2019 period. In particular there was the successful prosecution of P&ID and P&ID Nigeria on 19 September 2019, based on the groundwork undertaken during this fifteen-month period.
“I accept that, compared to what happened after August 2019, it cannot be said that the investigation proceeded with the same sense of urgency. There is also Mr Malami’s letter, which became available after the hearing, and the investigation being carried out into the conduct of Mr Magu as acting head of the EFCC at the time. With respect, I find it hard to read the letter as an attack on Mr Magu alone and not on the performance of the EFCC under his leadership. Mr Magu’s reference to the staggering volume of work done by the EFCC after June 2018 – if that is what his letter says – might be treated as special pleading,” Justice Cranston said.
SaharaReporters had in July exposed how a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, Mr Olasupo Shasore, obtained $2m from P&ID Ltd to frustrate the case.
According to the documents at the disposal of SaharaReporters, during the course of the EFCC’s investigations, Shasore was paid $2m for his involvement in the first and second stages of the arbitration.
To achieve this target, he concealed his involvement in the case from his own firm, Ajumogobia & Okeke but conducted the proceedings covertly through a separate firm, Twenty Marina, which had no background in litigation and was used to provide secretarial services.
Shasore, it was discovered, made payments of $100,000 each to Mrs Adelore and Mr Oguine, who were senior lawyers for the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation at the time.
The payments were said to have been made in a bid to purchase the silence of Adelore and Oguine in relation to Shasore’s conduct of the arbitration.