- Ex-director, Ministry of Petroleum, remanded for alleged complicity
Senior lawyers were unanimous yesterday when they said last Thursday’s judgement of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, which ordered the winding up of P&ID in Nigeria over fraud and tax evasion, had nullified the earlier UK $9.6 billion judgement against Nigeria. This emerged as an Abuja High Court, Apo Division, yesterday ordered the remand in prison of a former Director, Legal Services of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Grace Taiga, over alleged complicity in the controversial P&ID $9.6 billion judgement. The Federal Government had on Thursday arraigned Process and Industrial Development Limited and its Nigerian affiliate, P&ID Nigeria Limited before Justice Inyang Ekwo.
The two firms pleaded guilty to the 11-count and the court subsequently ordered its winding up and forfeiture of all its assets and properties. Reacting to the judgement, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said it was a judicial proof of fraud and corruption as a foundation of the relationship that gave rise to the $9.6 billion arbitral award the company secured against Nigeria. Malami also said Nigeria would next week meet in Britain with its legal consortium in preparation for the case listed for September 26. In his reaction, another Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Mike Ozekhome, said it was a good response from the domestic angle. He said: “But it appears to me that the best way out for us to attack the main judgement, is to file an appeal and stay proceedings.
“The reason is that the FHC in Abuja does not have extra-territorial jurisdiction over the UK court and arbitral tribunal that made the $9.6 billion award. “The FHC in Nigeria can only prevent the award from being effected against government properties and money in Nigeria, but not against such properties and money domiciled within the EU countries and the over 150 countries of the New York Convention to which the arbitral award is subject to execution.” Also reacting, Femi Falana (SAN), said: “Once the judgement obtained from Abuja High Court is registered abroad, it can be executed against P&ID.
“The judgement substantially appears to be a perfect solution to the London Court judgement. What Nigeria has to do now, is to quickly apply to have that judgement set aside on the basis of monumental fraud.” On his part, Dr. Kayode Ajulo, also said the judgement had brought to an end the UK ruling. He added: “With proof that the company was not paying tax in Nigeria and fraud is enough to nullify that judgement.
“The UK court should be duly informed of the conviction by the Nigerian court so as to quash the earlier judgement.” Meanwhile, the Federal Government had arraigned the defendant on an eight count criminal charge in which she pleaded not guilty. The defendant was accused of among others, receiving bribe through her offshore bank account for signing, alongside the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, the late Dr. Rilwan Lukman, the Gas Supply Processing Agreement between the Process and Industrial Developments Limited and the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Ministry on January 11. She was also accused of violating various laws by entering into the GSPA without prior approval by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and a certificate of no objection to the contract from the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE).
The defendant was also alleged to have signed as Nigeria’s witness to the GSPA while Lukman, signed as Nigeria’s representative. After she pleaded not guilty to the charges, her counsel, Ola Olanipekun (SAN), who said his client was suffering from hypertension and diabetes, pleaded with the court to allow her to be remanded in the custody of the EFCC. But prosecution counsel, Bala Sanga, opposed the request, insisting that her proper place of custody after arraignment was the prison.
The trial judge, Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, however, agreed with the prosecuting counsel and ordered the defendant’s remand in prison. He added that she should be accorded proper medical treatment in custody pending the hearing and determination of her bail application. The court subsequently adjourned till September 25, for hearing of the bail application.