EVEN as President Muhammadu Buhari was denouncing as a scam, the Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) contract with the Nigeria government, which has resulted in the humongous award of 9.6 billion US dollars against Nigeria by a London commercial court, at the United Nations General Assembly last week and warning other “International Criminal groups” to stay away, his ministers and other top government officials led by Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Mr. Abubakar Malami were in London, ostensibly in an effort to vacate the judgment. Even as the commercial court in London has granted a stay of execution of the earlier judgment, it also slapped a bill of 200 million us dollars (N72.2b) that Nigeria must deposit in the court within 60 days for the stay of execution to take effect. Mr. Malami who led the Nigeria delegation enthused that “I am happy with today’s development in the court and see this as a positive resolution that constitutes an important step in the government effort to defend itself in a fair and just process.” But the question that is paramount and must be vigorously resolved by the government and its agents is whether the principal of the current administration, President Buhari is convinced in the notice he has given the “international criminal groups” through the United Nations platform “by the vigorous prosecution of the P&ID scam, attempting to cheat Nigeria of billions of dollars. And if he is, then why are his officials reclining in London, in appeasement of already, a nabbed member of the “International criminal groups” that has attempted to swindle Nigeria of billions of dollars? Why is Mr. Malami, the attorney General excited or “happy”, that a judgment entered in favour of “International Criminal group” that should have been in jail or at best, on the run, have cost of 200 million US dollars to vacate its execution? Even as President Buhari appeared to believe that the entire P&ID affair was a fraud and went ahead to use the foremost multilateral platform of the United Nations to denounce it, why are his ministers and other officials running helter-skelter to overturn a judgment of the foreign court that should at best be considered an accessory to the fact of criminal extortion of Nigeria. It appears, the current cream of Nigerian governing elite have discovered a honey pot for which they are desperate to scoop to its last residue. The prospective reckoning of these crusading apostles of a London court judgment may not unconnected with a desire to squander and pocket as much as half of the humongous original London court judgment and even expect the country to lionize them for saving for us, at least half of the original total cost.
It is becoming very clear and apparent that the P&ID company may be actually working in cohort with those who claim to be sweating to overturn the judgment, the company won against Nigeria. In its latest outburst, the “International Criminal group” as President Buhari called them has found their voice. According to its statement recently, “the court has ruled that Nigeria government must put 200 million U.S dollars to maintain a stay of execution whilst it pursues an appeal against enforcement of the now 9.6 billion awards in favour of P&ID.” Continuing, the phantom company with no known pedigree of project execution anywhere in the world and whose Irish founder was ensnared in many shadowy deals taunted that “Nigeria government will now have to put its money where its mouth is, if it wants to avoid immediate seizure of assets,” adding with a good amount of scorn that “Nigeria government’s recent media exercise to allege fraud against P&ID turned out to be red-herring.” The hunter has become the hunted and even President Buhari’s constructive message to the world through the UN platform that Nigeria is under siege by a criminal gang, wanting to scam the country, billions of dollars was comprehensively flagged down by P&ID as “red-herring,” and if it is not, why are the Buhari men roaming about in the U.K, whose learned judges should have known that extra-territorial judgment infringing on other nations sovereign and territorial integrity has enormous diplomatic costs especially at a time of London political winter, when the Brexit confusion is mauling its political establishment.
Between the desperation in the pursuit of appeal in the U.K against a judgment that literally serves as an accessory to scamming Nigeria billions of dollars by an international criminal group and the vehemence of President Buhari to denounce the entire P&ID affairs as criminal enterprise, where does the government really stand. If the P&ID is a scam and a London court sought to glamourize it by issuing a judgment in favour of international criminal group, do we need to further deodorize the crime and scam by appealing a judgment or do we muscularly invoke our sovereign prerogatives to denounce the judgment as blatant interference in our internal affairs especially when it has to do with an international criminal group, wanting to cheat Nigeria billions of dollars. Instead of the rigmaroles in the London court, why would not the government activate the diplomatic machinery to put the British government on notice, that a key institution of her domestic national process is putting bilateral cooperation between the two countries in jeopardy. In one’s earlier intervention on the London court judgment, I drew attention to the firm position taken by the Djibouti government after it terminated a contract with Dubai based port Management Company, PW World on account of what it called national security.
The Dubai based port management company rushed to the same London court, obtained an order to compel compensation. But the Djibouti government simply rejected the court judgment, citing its infringement on her sovereignty to take decisions that is best to her national interest. In the case of Djibouti, it was not even an international criminal group,” but a consortium that is in proper execution of the agreement until the government decided that her nation’s best interest is no longer served with the execution of the earlier contract agreement and revoked it, midway. Nigerian governing elite under which ever party platform they might spring from, are opportunists, self centered and profiteering.
Hiring legal teams both local and international, with over-bloated expense in travels and fees would be the lifeblood that would ensure that the P&ID affair will never go away, any time soon. But instead of this exercise that confers respectability to international criminal syndicate that desperately want to cheat the country of billions of dollars , why cannot we simply liaise a brother Africa country Djibouti to share their experience on how they successfully rebuffed British court judgment that infringe on the national sovereignty. Djibouti is less than a million in population in East Africa.
At the end of this epic rigmaroles, negotiations with the P&ID, when all concerned would have agreed on cuts and percentages will be the ultimate deal maker and the final outcome. Our national assembly, the senate and the House of Representatives smelling the tantalizing honey pot are asking to be brought on board. President Buhari, a staunch anti-corruption crusader with impeccable integrity will soon understand that corruption has many faces and some might actually look like those around him.
Onunaiju, research director, Centre for China Studies, Utako Abuja