Abubakar Malami (SAN), the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, has revealed that the best option the Federal Government of Nigeria has is to negotiate with Process and Industrial Developments Limited, the United Kingdom firm authorized by a UK court to seize $9.6billion in Nigerian assets.
According to Malami, the investigation would extend beyond Nigeria. He further added that the investigation which is already ongoing would be extensively and intensively carried out.
“There is indeed an ongoing investigation being extensively and intensively carried out by agencies of government,” he told Journalists while speaking in Abuja on Sunday.
“It is indeed concerted. It is borderless and there are no limitations as to who and who can be invited and who cannot be invited.
“I wouldn’t like to be specific on personalities, but I want to state categorically that those that were involved in the process of drafting the agreement, signing the agreement and conduct of the contract are being investigated for the purpose of establishing the existence of fraud or otherwise.”
Mr. Malami however noted that despite the Federal Government position on the controversial contract, the best option was to negotiate with P&ID.
“As of the time we came on board, there was already an award of about $6.9bn. As of that time, the time which we would have appealed had already elapsed.
“There was no time for us to appeal because the previous administration did not appeal against the judgment when it was made in June 2014.
“So, with the lapsing of time to appeal, you could not have filed an application to either set aside the award or to stay execution. You require the leave of the court to appeal an award. That leave would have been very difficult because Nigeria as of then had been adjudged to have slept over its rights to appeal.
“The only option open was to consider the possibility of negotiating, which was what informed our decision to consider the possibility of negotiation.”
The AGF who noted that the Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and the lawyers it hired should be blamed for the court case which was struck out due to lack of diligence prosecution in a Nigerian court.
He further revealed that the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government was working to establish that fraud was involved in the conception of the contract. Once fraud could be established, it would be a good ground to set aside the contract.
“Along the line of negotiation, many facts came to light, inclusive of the fact that gave rise to the possibility of insinuation of fraudulent underhand among the parties involved.
“And for your information, legally speaking, fraud could be a ground for setting aside an award without necessarily having to go through the rules of seeking for leave.
“If you can establish fraud, there is no time limit within which you can raise it, as against appealing the award of the decision of the tribunal on the basis of law of facts.
“So, when fraudulent insinuations manifested in the course of the engagement, it is only logical that Nigeria should have a consideration for investigation relating to the fraudulent elements which could afford the country an opportunity to have the entire award set aside if fraud can be established.”
Speaking further on how to prove that the contract was fraudulent from the beginning, Malami said; that P&ID did not have its own office address at the time of signing the contract agreement. He revealed that the address used was that of a law firm.
Another issue was why the contract was not passed to the Ministry of Justice and why the contract was not taken to the Federal Executive Council for approval.
Other issues to be considered are in whose interest the contract was awarded and the purpose it was meant to achieve. Why the NNPC, NPDC and IOCs who were to supply the gas component were not parties to the contract.
“I want to state clearly that the Nigerian government will not sell out the interest of the country and the Nigerian people in order to satisfy some elements who are consciously out to extort the Nigerian people for their selfish aggrandisement.
“It is to be noted that while we are willing and ready to negotiate and meet the terms of agreements reached with all genuine investors which have done business or are still doing business with Nigeria on mutually beneficial terms, we will not allow fraudulent local and foreign collaborators to rip off the resources of Nigeria for no just cause in order to be seen as being nice or ‘investor-friendly,” he said.
Ibrahim Kenneth Suleiman is the Chief Political Editor at Naija Buzz News Network. He is a graduate of political science from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna State. He specializes in preparing/approving of political news contents before publication. He currently heads Naija Buzz News team of political correspondents. From Nasarawa State, North-Central Nigeria, Ibrahim is a strong supporter of Manchester United Football Club England.