The Federal Government had debunked allegations that it did not meticulously defend Nigeria’s interest in a case concerning a cancelled gas agreement, which led to the award of $9.6 billion damages against the country.
The government made the rebuttal through Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, who spoke on Good Morning Nigeria, a programme on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) on Thursday.
Recall that a London court had on August 16, ruled in favour of an Irish company, Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID), to seize assets of Nigeria to the tune of $9 billion.
The order was issued after the company had filed a case against the Nigerian government, with the former accusing the latter of reneging on a 20-year Gas and Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA) signed in 2010.
The company, according to court documents, claimed that the administration of former president Goodluck Jonathan had resolved the issue out of arbitration by pledging to pay $850 million as compensation for the cancelled agreement.
However, it was alleged that the current administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, who was handed the responsibility of implementing the settlement, foot-dragged over the payment.
But Mohammed described the insinuation about the government’s supposed negligence on the case as “untrue and unfair”.
He said: “It is not true that we did not defend it or that we were not represented.
“The contract was entered into in 2010 and from the records made available, there were three arbitrators.
“The arbitrators were the parties to be nominated by the company, the other by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources while the two of them will agree on the third arbiter.
“Nigeria was represented on the arbitration by the former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN).’’
Mohammed said after the award in July 2015 by the arbitration panel sitting in London, the government went into negotiations with the company, but all to no avail.
The minister explained that when the company also filed the case for the enforcement order in both the UK and the U.S. courts simultaneously, the government engaged services of solicitors to defend the action.
“We succeeded to some extent in the US court and our lawyers are still there trying to defend the action.
“It is quite disturbing the way Nigerians are commenting about this issue.
“It is about all of us because 9.6 billion dollars translates to about N3.5 trillion and that is 20 per cent of foreign reserves.
“Imagine what is going to happen when 9.6 billion dollars of our assets are attached.
“It is going to affect every Nigerian, and that is why we are appealing for patriotism and objectivity of the media in handling this delicate matter,’’ he said.
He, however, reassured Nigerians that there was no imminent threat to Nigeria’s assets in spite of the award, stressing that the government would do all things, diplomatic and legal to upturn the decision.