By Gift Chapi Odekina
The House of Representatives Wednesday set up 17man ad-hoc committee to investigate circumstances surrounding judgement debt of about $9.6 billion.
The resolution came following the adoption of a motion of urgent National Importance at plenary into ‘act of negligence of the P&ID Limited’s transaction by the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Petroleum Resources respectively,’ sponsored by Hon. Julius Ihonvbere.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila while constituting the Ad-hoc Committee which is to be chaired by Hon. Sada Soli said it will also be saddled with responsibility to investigate the award of the contract without Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval.
Contributing to the motion’s debate, Mr. Luke Onofiok said a thorough investigation where relevant standing committees like Justice, Procurement among others should be involved not just an ad-hoc committee be set up due to its nature.
Earlier leading the debate, Hon. Ihonvbere lamented that the recent judgement debt of $9.6 billion (with daily interest accruing) by a commercial court in the United Kingdom against Nigeria, in a matter between P&ID Limited leaves a very sour taste in the mouth.
According to him, for a country with a foreign reserve of only $45billion and a sovereign debt profile of over $80 billion, the judgment debt was not only punitive but would devastatingly affect the Nigerian economy.
“The House is aware of the fact Nigeria has a penchant for disregarding the sanctity of contracts and terms of agreement, coupled with the failure of Nigeria’s representatives in many cases, to carefully or diligently scrutinize agreements they sign knowing that the consequences will affect past and future generations.
“Nigeria had entered into a Gas Supply and Processing Agreement (GSPA) with P&ID Limited, in January 2010, through the Ministry of Petroleum Resources with the understanding that Nigeria would supply natural gas (wet gas) at no cost, through a government pipeline to P&ID’s production facility, while P&ID in return would construct and operate the facility, process the Wet Gas and return to the government of Nigeria lean gas for the generation of power at no cost to Nigeria.
“The House is further aware that two years down the line, P&ID had not built any gas plant to which Nigeria could supply wet gas for processing, signifying in the first place that the move to Arbitration was opportunistic and grossly self-serving.
“The House is cognizant of the fact that, the matter went before an Arbitration Tribunal, under the Rules of the Nigerian Arbitration and Conciliation Act 2004, with London, England as place of Arbitration. After affirming its jurisdiction in the matter, the Tribunal began hearing to determine whether or not there were any repudiatory breach of contract.
“At this point, there was an attempt by the Ministry of Petroleum to reach a settlement agreement with P&ID Limited to the tune of $850million, payable in instalments which obviously was not diligently pursued.
“The House is alarmed that the agreement was somewhat shrouded in secrecy and as such apparently dubiously procured, as those who ought to know about its existence did not and more importantly, the relevant Laws in Nigeria for the transaction to be consummated was not applied especially, Part IV of the Bureau of Public Procurement Act 2007 which deals with the Fundamental Principles of Procurement.
“The House is further alarmed that it took the new Nigerian government more than 4 months to respond to the vital arbitration judgement of about $6 billion with a ridiculous excuse that there had been a change of administration in Nigeria and that Ministers, including the Attorney General had only just been appointed thus asking for an extension of time to act on the outcome of the Arbitration Tribunal.
“Rather than engage P&ID in the matter before the tribunal with robust legal arguments and interpretations, Nigeria was busy shopping for a favourite forum to plead her case in a court in Lagos, Nigeria.
“The House is worried that the lack of diligent prosecution of cases in which Nigeria is involved by those whose duty, it is to do so, is due to our tendency to either politicise everything or focus more on personal interests, or failure on the part all parties involved,” he noted.
The lawmaker observed that that Butcher, J. (the Judge in the matter) in his August 16, 2019 ruling made heavy weather out of several acts of omission on the part of the Nigerian authorities, especially when he noted that “…the FRN had remedies for many procedural unfairness, but it did not utilise them”.
He argued that Nigeria could also have objected to Procedural Order No. 12 or question the Final Award.
Hon. Ihonvbere further stressed that “these are serious indictments of the incompetence and gross negligence displayed by our representatives/agents/arbitrators in the matter”.
The House further observed that the judgement exposes a deep decay in the countrys governance and leadership infrastructure with far-reaching implications for the credibility of the country’s capacity to handle business and legal cases.