By Yemi Adebowale;[email protected]; 07013940521
The rogue British firm, Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID), dubiously eyeing $9.6 billion Nigerian windfall, did not set out to build plants for the processing of wet gas into lean gas as contained in the agreement signed with Nigeria. This, I can say confidently. It simply connived with dubious Nigerian government officials to sign an illegal contract skewed in its favour; then, it ran to UK and filed for arbitration. It was a well-laid out game plan. The main idea is to swindle Nigeria. This has always been the stock in trade of P&ID’s Irish founder/Chairman, Michael Quinn, who died of cancer in May 2015. The $9.6 billion was to be his biggest dubious pay but Holy Ghost fire snapped him. Its co-founder, Brendan Cahill, is pushing ahead with the game plan. He has since teamed up with an American hedge fund, VR Capital Group Ltd. and moved the case to public courts, where it is asking for approval to seize Nigerian assets, including bank accounts and cargo ships. The hedge fund firm bought a share of the suit’s proceeds, in return for helping finance the legal action against Nigeria.
The entire deal is a scam. P&ID was deliberately registered offshore in the British Virgin Islands for this purpose. Of course, it is legal, but usually the tactic of rogue businessmen with dubious plans. The intention of P&ID was clear with this tactic i.e. to be used as a vehicle for a dirty deal in Nigeria. I need to unmask late Quinn, for readers to understand this fraud better. It is pertinent to point out that Quinn had previously colluded with Nigerian military officials to profit from a number of government projects that were equally doomed from the word “go.”
His collaborators are usually civil servants, lawyers, financial institutions, and politicians. They profit immensely from the deals. This is why his projects often end in litigations. Quinn started doing suspicious business in Nigeria in the ’70s. He had previously made money from Nigeria for job not done through litigation. One of his sham companies, Industrial Consultants brokered a $5 million deal with the Nigerian Air Force in 2010 which failed. An arbitration panel found the military guilty and awarded $2.3 million for work allegedly done. There was also a $150 million suit against the NNPC over delays in the construction of an oil terminal, which Quinn benefitted from when award was made against Nigeria.
The late P&ID chairman also once had a contract with the Nigerian Army to repair scores of tanks and charged them for undelivered tank parts and also massively inflated the cost of the repairs. But nothing happened because he settled those that mattered. Even in his country, Ireland, Quinn’s projects often end in disasters. At one point, Quinn and Cahill got a grant worth $450,000 from the Irish government to start a videocassette factory near Dublin. It was never actualised. The project collapsed and money disappeared. At another point, Quinn and Cahill got three million Irish pounds from the European Union to explore cleaner technology for making steel. The project also failed because it was a scam.
Back to the Arbitration Tribunal in London; here, Quinn worked on the Nigerian government officials and lawyers to throw the case. They did not defend Nigeria. Besides, there was no point agreeing to arbitration because the contract was a sham; yet, the Nigerian officials agreed to arbitration, working on a deal with Quinn. Based on largely unopposed proof provided by P&ID, Nigeria’s flimsy objections were thrown out by the Tribunal and almost $6.6 billion damages awarded to P&ID. For example, Quinn, who took charge at the Tribunal, claimed he spent $40 million on preparatory work for the gas plant, including a 3D digital model. The Nigerian team did not ask him to provide proof of this. There was no evidence of capital importation by P&ID, yet, the Nigerian lawyers were silent. It is also ridiculous that Nigeria called only one witness, a lawyer without firsthand knowledge of any of the relevant events, before, during or after the so-called breach of agreement.
The choice of the neutral member of the three-man arbitration panel is also curious. Nigeria nominated Bayo Ojo while P&ID nominated a Briton, Anthony Evans. The so-called neutral member nominated by the two parties was another Briton, Lord Hoffmann. Why would Nigerian officials agree to the nomination of a Briton as a neutral member of the tribunal? This is easy to decrypt. Quinn simply fixed it in conjunction with the people who are supposed to defend Nigeria.
Of course, the panel delivered judgment and the two Britons – Hoffmann and Evans gave it to P&ID. They held that Nigeria was liable to $6.597 billion and that became the majority decision. Ojo, a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, in a minority judgement, held that the P&ID was entitled to some compensation but should not be more than $250 million. The Tribunal awarded P&ID profits they claimed they would have made for 20 years (the duration of the botched contract) because they could not commence processing of wet gas into dry gas. This is more than three times its original estimate of losses. Why would a firm that claimed to have lost $40 million get $6.597 billion as damages? It is preposterous. The Nigerian officials did not appeal this tribunal award.
Another interesting angle to the P&ID fraud is the Theophilus Danjuma allegation that emerged this week. This Nigerian former army chief said the gas processing plan was originally his idea; that one of his companies, Tita-Kuru Petrochemicals was the one that spent the $40 million preparing feasibility studies, not P&ID. He said the late Irishman had been a consultant, using his funds and office space. Then, Quinn left him and applied for the contract himself, promising Danjuma a share of P&ID for his first investment.
Meanwhile, the public relations firm recruited by P&ID is doing very well with its mandate to heighten tension in the country over the case. It is still dishing out all sorts of falsehood to justify its pay from P&ID. The purpose is to stampede the Nigerian government. American Kobre & Kim and a public-relations specialist, DCI Group, are anchoring these global moves to panic Nigeria on behalf of P&ID. They have placed a number of anti-Nigeria articles in British and American newspapers, warning our government to pay P&ID. Government media managers must persistently counter all these falsehood.
The truth that must be told is that even if the British commercial court returns and gives P&ID approval to seize Nigerian assets (and Nigeria fails to appeal) it cannot simply go ahead and do so. It is not that simple. P&ID can’t just move to the sea and seize Nigerian cargoes or to the banks in UK and seize Nigerian money. It would require the backing of the British government to implement. Of course, the British government knows that Nigeria is capable of retaliating if it concurs with the fraudulent judgement against a sovereign state. We all can still remember how Iran in July seized a British-flagged ship, Stena Impero in retaliation for the detention of an Iranian tanker off the territory of Gibraltar. Britain had to release the Iranian tanker before Iran freed Stena Impero.
Yes, the British Commercial court has ruled that the award against Nigeria by the arbitration tribunal is legal; it is yet to give P&ID approval to seize Nigerian assets. The federal government said it would appeal the British court ruling. It should go beyond this. The Nigerian government must challenge the legitimacy of the contract in court. The P&ID contract is evidently illegal and a sham. It is a nullity because it was never approved by Nigeria’s Federal Executive Council. Besides, it was frustrated, varied and discharged by force majeure.
Magashi Launches Tenure with Falsehood
The biggest drawback to the war against Boko Haram under the Buhari administration is the massive lies about progress on the battle field. A technically defeated Boko Haram keeps drubbing our soldiers, military formations and innocent citizens. The first step towards tackling a problem is to admit it exists. This is what this government has persistently failed to do. It is so sad to note that the newly sworn in Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd), has decided to commence his tenure with this faulty approach. It was ridiculous seeing Magashi telling Nigerians that 22 Borno local government areas had been liberated since the inception of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2015. I was not surprised that the minister, who spoke during his ongoing tour of military formations in the North-east, was silent on the identities of the LGAs liberated.
When the Jonathan administration handed over to Buhari on May 29, 2015, Boko Haram had been pushed to the fringes of Zambisa forest. Many local government areas were retaken by the terrorists under the Buhari government. As I pen this piece, aid agencies can’t access many local government areas of Borno State. The terrorists roam freely in these areas. They even run their own government and collect taxes.
Magashi should stop all these propaganda and face the task ahead squarely. It is the tenacious propaganda by government that pushed the North-east to this very bad state. The truth is that the terrorists are alive and kicking in many parts of Borno State. They are also controlling territories. Our gallant soldiers are doing their best but lack the capabilities to end the war. Boko Haram is growing stronger daily, with better equipment. I urge Magashi to face this fact and come out with pragmatic solution to this quagmire.
Tyranny of Governor Ben Ayade
Governor Ben Ayade of Cross Rivers State is averse to criticism. He rules the state with an iron fist. Ayade is always very ruthless when confronted with facts and figures showing his failings. This has been his tactic for over four years now. Leaders of the Academic Staff Union of Cross River State University can testify to this. He recently bared his fangs at the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, Agba Jalingo, for reporting that he allegedly diverted N500 million meant for the state’s micro finance bank. Ayade mobilised the Cross Rivers State Police Command to Lagos to abduct Jalingo in his home. I am shocked that he is using the police to terrorise innocent people. If this governor is aggrieved by the publication, I expect him to file for libel. Abducting a journalist and locking him for over two weeks is lawlessness. Ayade, a professor, is persistently intimidating his perceived opponents with security agents. This governor needs to be reminded that he is a public officer and must learn to be tolerant of criticism. Criticism is necessary in a free society. This baloney has to stop. All forces of good must mount pressure on Ayade to free Jalingo. Today, I urge the Acting IG Muhammed Adamu, to reprimand the Commissioner of Police, Cross River State Command (Austin Agbonlahor) for allowing Ayade to use him to perpetrate injustice.