$9.6b Judgment Probe: There ‘ll Be No Sacred Cows, Says Malami

The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mallam Abubakar Malami(SAN) on Sunday said there will be no scared cows in the ongoing probe of the criminal conspiracy surrounding the $9.6billion judgment debt against Nigeria.

He also said the investigation will be extended beyond the shores of the country which signposted a collaboration with some security agencies abroad.

Malami said the ongoing investigation could establish proof of fraud behind the award of the contract and other underhand deals, it will afford Nigeria the opportunity to set the judgment debt aside.

He asked Nigerians to ask the PDP government that awarded the contract why it was given to a company, whose address was in care of a lawyer’s office.

He, however, said judges are not under investigation by the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit(NFIU).

Malami, who opened up in a chat with reporters in Abuja, said there are no limitations as to who should be invited or not.

He made the submissions while reacting to a question on the interrogation of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Alfa Belgore by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over his roles in the award of the $9.6billion damages against Nigeria.

Although the AGF refused to mention any name, he said all those implicated in the deal were being investigated.

He said: “There is indeed investigation being intensively and extensively carried out by agencies of government and it is indeed unearthed, borderless and there are no limitations as to who and who can be invited and not invited.

“I won’t like to speak on the personalities but I want to state categorically that those that were involved in the process of drafting the agreement; in the process of signing and executing the agreement; in the process of the conduct of arbitration; in the court of the trial before the high court relating to a subsequent case that was filed and all other personalities of interest( local and international) are indeed being investigated to get to the bottom of what indeed transpired for the purpose of establishing the existence or otherwise of fraud, conspiracies within the parties or among the parties.”

Malami said the administration of President Muhammad Buhari will not sell out the interest of the nation to satisfy some selfish Nigerians.

Malami said, “However, I want to say that while I don’t wish to say so much on the P&ID matter, 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 aggrandizement.

“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’.

“Those who are clapping for P&ID and blaming Abubakar Malami and the Buhari administration for the huge $9.6 billion slammed on the country as a result of the so-called Gas Supply and Processing Contract awarded the firm on January 11, 2010, five years before President Buhari came to power and I became minister, should be kind enough to ask those who awarded the ‘so-called contract’ what it was all about and why there was no attempt by either those who awarded the contract and the contractor to implement even an aspect of it.

“Nigerians should also ask the PDP government that awarded the contract why it was given to a company, whose address is C/O of a lawyer’s office: Trident Chambers, P.O Box 146, Tortola, British Virgin Island and that means the company does not have an office of its own and has no record of executing any project of any kind close to what it was awarded in Nigeria.”

Malami raised six posers which Nigerians should ask the PDP government which awarded the contract.

He said, “The questions to further ask are:

*In whose interest was the critical contract awarded and what was it to achieve?

*Why was the centre of arbitration taken to London, and not Nigeria, a sovereign nation?

*Why was the contract not passed unto the Federal Ministry of Justice for vetting?

*Why was the Federal Executive Council’s approval not sought for in the execution of the agreement?

*Was there any Direct Capital Inflow arising from the contract?

*Was NNPC, NPDC and IOC’s who were to have supplied the gas component of the agreement not made parties to it?

“So, it is clear from all indications that the so-called contract was a well-organized scam consciously, deliberately and intentionally orchestrated by some dubious and well-placed Nigerian government officials at the time with some shrewd foreign collaborators to defraud Nigeria and inflict heavy economic and financial loss on Nigeria and its people.

“There is a comprehensive report by Bloomberg BusinessWeek on the whole scam and those who want to know more about the so-called contract can read up on: Is One of the World’s Biggest Lawsuits Built on a Sham?”

Malami insisted that Nigeria has a case if it could prove the fraud surrounding the award of the gas contract to Process and Industrial Developments (P&ID).

He said, “The truth of the matter was that as at the time we came on board as a government, there was already in existence an award and a quantum determination of about $6.9billion. As at the time we came in place, the time with which could have appealed had already elapsed. There was no time for us to appeal because the previous administration had not appealed against the award when it was made in June 2014.

“So, with the lapsing of the time to appeal, you could not have filed an application to either set aside the award or to stay execution as of right. You require the leave of the tribunal to appeal the award. And that leave could have been very difficult process because Nigeria as at then could have been adjudged to have slept over its right to appeal which you could do within a regulated time.

“So, the only immediate option open then was to consider the possibility of negotiating. And that was what informed our decision to accommodate the possibility of negotiation.

“But along the line, many facts came to light inclusive of the fact that gave rise to the possibility of insinuations 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 route of seeking for leave. So, if you can establish fraud, there is no time limit within which you can raise it.

“So, when fraudulent insinuations manifested arising in the course of engagement, it is only logical that Nigeria should have a consideration for investigation as relating to fraudulent elements which could afford the country an opportunity to have the entire award set aside if fraud can now be established.

“An issue was raised about lack of diligent prosecution. I have stated earlier that the lawyers that were on board as at the time this award came in place were engaged by the previous government as at the time the award was made in June 2014. And when we came on board, we had cause to intensify the existing legal consortium and we brought in additional lawyers to strengthen the team.

“Even if indeed and in fact any case at any point was struck out, the implication is that it was struck out at a time when the lawyers engaged by the previous administration were handling the matter because as at the time we came on board, all opportunities for appeal, setting aside, stay of execution were closed taking into consideration that the time in which to appeal had indeed elapsed.”

Malami denied alleged plans to screen the accounts of judges and principal officers of the National Assembly.

He said, “One thing I want to categorically state and make clear is that NFIU by their competency and capacity is well-placed to have information relating to accounts of individuals and institutions without any recourse to a third party. So, in effect, the idea of making a formal claim does not even arise because the NFIU is the custodian of the information and it is very well-placed by law to analyze and have a very forensic analysis of the information at their disposal.

“The NFIU had indeed issued a formal statement to the effect that there was nothing of that nature taking place. There was no investigation; no cause for such investigation as it is. And if indeed there exists such cause, there could have been no basis for a formal request for it from institutions because it is the institution that is legally, logically and inherently vested with the capacity competency, capacity, and legal powers to have information at its disposal.

“It is supposed to be the one passing information where such arises.”

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