By Shola Abayomi.
The Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, has lamented that payment of the $9billion judgement debt imposed on Nigeria by a UK court would harm the country’s economy and inflict more pains on Nigerians.
The minister explained that the Federal Government was making serious effort to get the judgment set aside because the implications would be too tough on all Nigerians.
She added that there was no immediate threat to the country’s assets overseas.
“The Federal Government, therefore, wishes to use this opportunity to assure Nigerians that there is no immediate threat to Nigeria’s assets as has been wrongly interpreted by a section of the media.
“Nigerians should be assured that the Federal Government is taking all necessary steps to appeal the decision of the UK court, to seek for a stay of execution of the decision, to defend its rights and protect the assets of the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Mrs Ahmed said on Tuesday.
It was gathered that in 2010, the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and a foreign firm, Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) entered into a Gas Supply Processing Agreement to last for 20 years, even though there is no record that the company performed any project anywhere in the country in pursuit of the contract.
The contract reportedly fell through, and the case went to arbitration with P&ID seeking compensatory damages for the loss of profit for the 20-year term of the Gas Supply Processing Agreement.
The Arbitration Tribunal ruled that Nigeria had breached the contract. Consequent upon that, the Tribunal, on January 31, 2017, rendered its final award against the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in the sum of $6.597billion, together with pre-award interest at the rate of 7% per annum, effective from March 20, 2013 and post-award interest at the same rate from the date of the award.
This interest increased the size of the award to $9.6 billion which was made known last week by the UK court.
It was also learnt that Nigeria had made several attempts to negotiate the award and resolve the whole issue with P&ID but to no avail.
At a media briefing jointly addressed by the Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, Attorney-General of the Federation & Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Godwin Emefiele, and Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed, it was revealed that the Federal Government had set up an investigation panel led by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to probe the entire process leading to the award and the failure of the contract.