Lawyers representing Nigeria and Process and Industrial Developments (P&ID) have put forward their cases as to whether an extension should be granted in the long-running legal saga over a Cross Rivers gas plant.
Nigeria is on the hook for $9.98 billion. The court will issue a ruling at a later date.
The country’s representation, led by Brick Court’s Mark Howard, argued that because of the nature of the fraud around the case, it needed to have more time to challenge the award.
An English court made the arbitration award in 2017. Appeals are typically required to be filed within 28 days, under English law.
P&ID’s case, argued by Blackstone Chambers’ Ian Mill, was that Nigeria has missed its chance. The country only opted to pursue its allegations of fraud against P&ID after it lost a hearing on the arbitration award in August 2019.
In fraud cases it is rare that there would be a “single smoking gun”, Howard said. Those carrying out fraud do it in secret, he said. Nigeria only became truly aware of problems around the gas sales and purchase agreement (GSPA) in late 2019, Howard said.
Nigeria argued the architects of the GSPA had designed it to fail. Furthermore, it said the arbitration award was based on fraud.
A representative from the Nigerian Attorney General said P&ID, and its financial backer VR Capital, were said to be willing to go to “any length to aggressively pursue their fraudulent US$10 billion award”.
The two companies have “taken every possible step to delay or obstruct our investigations into the GSPA, which is inconsistent with their contention that [Nigeria] should have discovered the fraud sooner. The latest revelations are no doubt why P&ID was desperate to conceal the evidence from these proceedings.”
P&ID has rejected the suggestions from the country. “Nigeria’s conspiracy theory against P&ID – hatched almost a decade after the gas supply agreement was signed – relies on speculation and conjecture with no basis in fact,” a spokesperson said.
Nigeria is also pursuing the case in the US. P&ID has also been critical of the way in which the country is pursuing the US side of the proceedings. These include the way in which Nigeria has sought information and documents in the US.
The timing of the case is difficult for Nigeria. Attorney General Abubakar Malami has been forced to deny impropriety in the sale of confiscated assets to a company, Omoh-Jay Nigeria. Nigeria had charged the company with stealing crude but it has not been found guilty.
Furthermore, the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Ibrahim Magu. State officials questioned Magu last week. Investigators found there were sufficient grounds for a detailed investigation.
Malami had written a critical memo on Magu to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in June. The attorney general had accused Magu of having failed to disclose and transfer all seized assets to the state.