Former President Muhammadu Buhari applauded Nigeria’s success in the $11 billion Process & Industrial Developments (P&ID) Limited arbitration verdict.
Sunday Telegraph had earlier reported that Justice Robin Knowles of the Commercial Courts of England and Wales delivered a judgment in favour of Nigeria, nullifying the implementation of the $11 billion arbitration verdict in P&ID Ltd.’s favour.
In the judgment sent via email last Monday, the judge supported Nigeria’s plea, citing fraud as the reason behind the unfortunate gas processing contract’s acquisition.
Reacting to the development in a statement titled A Matter of Principle” and issued on Saturday, Buhari stressed that Nigeria was the victim of a massive fraud, adding that the triumph was worth the battle.
He claimed that if Nigeria had lost the arbitration issue, the people would have had to pay a hefty price in lost revenue from the loss of essential facilities.
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According to him, in response to calls for Nigeria to pay the arbitration award, he sent former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami and then-Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari to find ways for Nigeria to receive a fair trial.
He said: “We won, and all decent people can sleep easier as a result. Justice Robin Knowles said Nigeria had been the victim of a monstrous fraud. But it was a close-run thing.
“But ordinary Nigerians never took the decisions that ended up before Justice Knowles. Had Nigeria lost, it would have required schools not to be built, nurses not to be trained, and roads not to be repaired, on an epic scale, to pay a handful of contractors, lawyers, and their allies – for a project that never broke ground.
“Nigeria was in court in London, trying to talk down liability and costs. Back at home, fixers were looking to work out a quiet settlement. This is often the way. A lot of contracts end up in dispute.
“People, including out-of-work ex-British Cabinet Minister Priti Patel, were queuing up to insist we paid, or risk Nigeria becoming an untrustworthy trade pariah.
“It was clear that far from the whole story had been told. I tasked Abba Kyari, my chief of staff and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, with finding a way, even at that late stage and despite so much conflicting advice, to get us a fair hearing.
We began to find a huge amount of evidence, not all of which Justice Knowles was to accept. But he agreed that P&ID had paid bribes.
“He agreed that one of P&ID’s founders had committed perjury. And he agreed that P&ID had somehow found in its possession a steady supply of Nigeria’s privileged internal legal documents, outlining our plans, strategies, and problems.”
Buhari emphasised the need to follow due legal processes in resolving disputes, adding that the judiciary can satisfactorily resolve disputes without resolving extra-judicial measures.
He, therefore, called for sterner punishment should be meted out to Nigerian public officials who have been proven to connive with foreign criminals to defraud the country.
According to Buhari, Nigeria has won this battle with corruption, but the war is far from over. He also noted the need for better and greater transparency in awarding contracts in both private and public sectors.
He added: “My own view is that this whole, sorry affair shows how important it is to follow the legal process in resolving a dispute.
It shows that given time and opportunity for each side to present their case, the temple of justice can satisfactorily resolve all disputes without resorting to extrajudicial measures.
“It was definitely worth the struggle: this was an attempted heist of historic proportions, an attempt to steal from the treasury a third of Nigeria’s foreign reserves.
“But even at this moment, we should note what the English judge cautioned. The arbitration process in London ‘was a shell that got nowhere near the truth’.
We need better contracts, in the public and private sectors. And we need greater transparency: the reality is that had P&ID not conjured up quite such an outlandish ransom, they may have found themselves in the same place as the myriad of other invisible contractors who all too often quietly take Nigeria for many millions in out-of-court settlements.
“Sterner sanctions are indicated for Nigerian public officials who have been proven to connive with foreign criminals to defraud our country
Nigeria has won this battle with corruption, but the war is far from over.”