The federal government said that contrary to claims in certain quarters, it diligently defended the case leading to the award of $9.6 billion judgement debt against Nigeria by a British court in the botched gas contract.
Information and Culture minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said yesterday that insinuations in certain quarters that the government did not defend the case both at arbitration and court stages were "untrue and unfair."
Mohammed, who was a guest on the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) programme, 'Good Morning Nigeria,' insisted that "it is not true that we did not defend it or we were not represented."
A United Kingdom Court (UK) court had in a ruling, authorised an Irish engineering and project management company, Process and Industrial Developments Ltd (P&ID) to seize $9.6 billion in Nigerian assets over the failed contract.
The judgement was the fallout of the contract purportedly entered into in 2010 between the Federal Ministry of Petroleum Resources and P&ID and the subsequent award made in July 2015 by an arbitration panel sitting in London in favour of the company.
He said that the government successfully applied to have the award set aside by the Federal High Court in Lagos, but the tribunal ignored this decision.
"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 minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation (AGF), Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN).'
The minister said that after the award in July 2015 by the arbitration panel sitting in London, the government went into negotiations with the company, but all to no avail.
Mohammed said that when the company also filed the case for the enforcement order in both the UK and the United States (US) courts simultaneously, the government engaged the services of solicitors to defend the action.
"We succeeded to some extent in the US court and our lawyers are still there trying to defend the action. It is quite disturbing the way Nigerians are commenting on this issue.
"It is about all of us because $9.6 billion translates to about N3.5 trillion and that is 20 per cent of foreign reserves. Imagine what is going to happen when $9.6 billion of our assets are attached.
"It is going to affect every Nigerian, and that is why we are appealing for patriotism and objectivity of the media in handling this delicate matter," the minister said.
Mohammed reiterated that the award was unprecedented, unjustifiable and an attempt to inflict economic injury on Nigeria and its people.
He, however, reassured Nigerians that there was no imminent threat to Nigeria's assets in spite of the award, stressing that the government would do all things, diplomatic and legal, to upturn the decision.
Also yesterday, Mohammed assured Nigerians that the 'Next Level' administration of President Muhammadu Buhari will witness a faster pace of infrastructural development.
Mohammed gave the assurance yesterday in Abuja, at the 9th quadrennial conference of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW).
He said that a lot of ongoing projects would be delivered and put to use for the comfort of Nigerians.
"The government is investing massively in the provision of critical infrastructure to enable you discharge your duties effectively and efficiently. As a matter of fact, no government has invested more in infrastructure development than the Buhari administration.
"At the moment, there is at least one federal road under construction in each of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
"The setting up of the $650 million Presidential Infrastructure Fund is aimed at accelerating the ongoing construction work on the Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, East-West Road, Abuja-Kano Expressway and the Mambilla Hydro-electric Project.
"There is no better demonstration of President Buhari's commitment to deliver on critical infrastructure across the country, he said.
The minister called on the NURTW to support the government as it evolved innovative measures to tackle the challenge of insecurity on the roads.
He further urged the union to support the fight against insecurity by providing timely information to security agencies, particularly on all black spots on the country's highways.
"Whether on intra or inter-state journey, your members crisscross the length and breadth of this vast nation and, collectively, have great access to information that can help to make our roads safer.
"As government continues to frontally tackle the menace of insecurity, it is incumbent on all of us to collaborate in order to address the kidnapping, armed robbery and other forms of insecurity on our roads.
"You must also not forget your role in ensuring the safety of your passengers by obeying all traffic rules and regulations, shunning drug abuse and thuggery.
"As a government, we will continue to work hard to ensure that you carry out your functions with utmost ease, comfort and safety," he said.
The minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, expressed the government's readiness to work with the NURTW.
Represented by Mrs. Anthonia Akpan, a director in the ministry, Amaechi said that the president had directed that priority be given to the sector in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan of his administration.
The president of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, commended the outgoing president of NURTW, Alhaji Najeem Yasin, for his achievements he made while in office.