A company awarded $9.6 billion in an arbitration case against Nigeria over a failed gas deal must forfeit its assets to the country, a court in Abuja said Thursday.
The order came after two local representatives of Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) pleaded guilty to charges of fraud, tax evasion and economic sabotage filed against the company by Nigerian anti-graft authorities.
“An order is hereby made winding up the first defendant, that is, Process and Industrial Development, British Virgin Island,” judge Iyang Ekwo said in his ruling.
P&ID Nigeria, the local subsidiary of the company — widely reported to be registered in the British Virgin Islands — was also disbanded by the judge.
Last month, a British court gave the go-ahead for P&ID to seize $9.6 billion in Nigerian government assets — a fifth of the country’s foreign reserves — over a failed natural gas deal.
The agreement to build a processing plant to refine and supply Nigerian gas between the government and the company, set up in 2010 by two Irish partners, fell through in 2012.
An arbitration tribunal in England awarded the firm $6.6 billion in damages in January 2017.
In the London ruling, last month, P&ID said it has accrued interest, rising to more than $9 billion.
The Nigerian government’s legal team had argued that English courts did not have the jurisdiction to settle the dispute.
In the hearings before Thursday’s ruling, Nigeria’s anti-corruption body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, argued that the gas supply contract agreement which led to the British court judgement was fraudulent and amounted to economic sabotage.
It said the firm did not possess the requisite licence to deal in petroleum products as well as fraudulently claiming to have acquired land in 2010 for the gas supply project.
Thursday’s high court judgement is the latest twist in a decade-long row between Nigeria and P&ID over the abandoned gas deal, which aimed to build in the southern city of Calabar, in the oil and gas-rich Niger delta.
Lagos-based lawyer Femi Falana said Thursday’s ruling “now provides an opportunity for Nigeria to set the London judgement aside”.
He said since P&ID, through its representatives, has admitted that the entire contract was a fraud, “Nigeria now has good grounds to appeal for the London judgement to be overturned”.
Nigeria’s justice minister, Abubakar Malami, told reporters that the “implication of today’s conviction is that Nigeria has a judicial proof of fraud and corruption as a foundation of the relationship that gave rise to a purported liability in the arbitral award”.
He added that the country had “grounds for setting aside the liability”.
A Nigerian delegation will travel to Britain next week ahead of a hearing on September 26, Malami said.