The federal government has said it is ready to negotiate with the Process and Industrial Developments Ltd over a judgment by a United Kingdom court granting the firm seizure of $9.6billion in Nigerian assets.
The judgment was based on a contract between the Federal Government and the P&ID signed in 2010.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who spoke on Good Morning Nigeria, a live breakfast programme of the Nigerian Television Authority, on Thursday, said government was willing to meet with the P&ID to come up with a “reasonable” agreement.
Mohammed said, “We are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that this judgment is set aside. I want to assure Nigerians that there is absolutely no imminent threat to seizure of our assets because even the UK courts said they cannot begin any attachments until the courts are back and there will be further hearing on the matter.
“We are even willing to sit down with the P&ID and negotiate. We are ready to take this matter to the highest level — legal, diplomatic and otherwise — because we think it is just unfair and unconscionable. You don’t inflict this kind of injury on a country and its people for your selfish reasons.
“The government is doing everything possible to get self-execution and to set aside this award. But at the end of the day, we need to sit down with the P&ID and arrive at something that we think is reasonable for all the parties.”
The minister said the contract and, ultimately, the penalty awarded against Nigeria would not have been possible without the help of some “unpatriotic” Nigerians.
Mohammed said, “One thing is clear: without insider collaboration, we would not have reached this sordid path. Clearly, the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources had enough competent experienced personnel to know that this kind of contract cannot be entered into without involving the NNPC and the IOC.
“That is why, until this investigation is completed and concluded, we will not be able to know exactly what happened. But on the surface, I think it was a sham ab initio and the actors knew where they were going. The P&ID has engaged some Nigerians to do their dirty job for them.”
He also denied the allegation that the Federal Government did not diligently defend the case leading to the award of $9.6bn judgment debt against Nigeria over a botched gas contract.
The minister alleged that the award was unprecedented, unjustifiable and an attempt to inflict economy injury on Nigeria and its people.
He said, “It is not true that we did not defend it or 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 added that the government went into negotiations with the company after the award in July 2015 by the arbitration panel sitting in London.
He, however, added that the effort was futile.
The controversial contract was about a Gas Supply and Processing Agreement entered in 2010 between the Federal Government through the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the P & ID.