There are strong indications that civil servants in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources may have been compromised to leak privileged and confidential government documents in the case where British court ordered seizure of Nigerian assets worth $9 billion.
Exclusive documents obtained by The Guardian, yesterday, revealed that series of documents, including legal advice that may help the Nigerian government win the case are in the hands of P&ID and were wired through emails of key officials at the ministry.
The privileged and confidential documents also included necessary files from the time of the entry into the Gas Sales and Purchase Agreement (GSPA) and multiple privileged documents on settlement negotiations.
A GSPA signed in 2010 with P&ID backfired in 2019 after a British court ordered the seizure of Nigeria’s assets in a record breaking $9 billion judgment, now hovering around $10 billion.
This won’t be the only time public officials at the Ministry were helping themselves against the interest of the country. Recall that public servants allegedly played key roles in swindling the country in the Malabu oil deal, even as the Senate recently uncovered how the Ministry, which is now being superintended by President Muhammadu Buhari, spent N14 million for biros and N46 million for letterhead papers.
Most of the email correspondences were with an alleged P&ID agent and middleman identified as Adetunji Adebayo.
“However, full details of how P&ID came to obtain the (Federal Republic of Nigeria) FRN privileged documents remain obscured due to: (a) a lack of disclosure by P&ID of documents revealing the identity of the FRN individuals who improperly leaked and supplied such privileged documents to P&ID; and (b) P&ID maintaining in its response to FRN’s Request For Information (RFI) that it is unaware of the identity of the individuals who provided such privileged documents to it,” the court documents revealed.
Recall that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been at loggerheads with some government officials over the development. Earlier, EFFC had gone after a former Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, Olasupo Shasore (SAN).
EFCC had last year arraigned P&ID Commercial Director, Muhammed Kuchazi, before Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on eight counts bordering on money laundering.
Also, a former Director, Legal Services of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Grace Taiga, was arraigned by the EFCC after Taiga was discovered by the Commission to have allegedly and corruptly received $4,969.5 from the owners of P&ID.
Two British citizens, James Nolan and Adam Quinn, are also currently being arraigned alongside ICIL Limited before a judge, D.U. Okorowo, of the Federal High Court, Abuja, over the development while a company, Marqott Nigeria Limited, is also been fingered as an alleged accomplice.
“There’s an internal sabotage on the P&ID and we expect that government will do something but nothing is being done, Transparency International (TI) Head in Nigeria and Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, told The Guardian yesterday.
According to him, the development is not only worrisome, but dangerous as growing number of public officials trade patriotism for personal gains.
TI and CISLAC claimed that the Federal Government had ignored the recommendation they earlier made over the development in a document tagged ‘Corruption in Investor-State Arbitration.’
Rafsanjani alleged poor handling of the arbitration, adding that there may be more interest for some in paying legal experts and benefitting from the case despite the severe looming damages.
“The fact that you have officials, who prioritise their personal interest above that of the nation is worrisome. The class of people who have been fingered in this matter is also alarming,” he said.
A professor of law with expertise in petroleum, energy and environmental law, Damilola Olawuyi, had described the prevailing challenges as a major concern for Nigeria, especially in terms of the growth of the oil sector.
“This is a significant development that highlights the need for greater responsibility and care in the negotiation and implementation of petroleum contracts in Nigeria,” he added.
The Chancery Associates, Emeka Okwuosa, stressed the need to adopt a holistic approach to problems instead of a blame narrative.
“I respectfully suggest that in future, lawyers for the Federal Government should do their due diligence and vet contracts properly before advising government to sign. We should also, in the future, be wary and apprehensive about sacrificing the jurisdictional clause in contracts to foreign jurisdictions when the contract performance is in Nigeria,” he said.
Speaking on the recent judgments, Okwuosa described the development as a wakeup call to the government to change their mindset and modalities in contract executions without proper, due diligence.