After arraigning and securing the conviction of some Nigerians, the federal government has set machinery in motion to apprehend and prosecute their foreign collaborators in the gas supply contract purportedly awarded to a British Virgin Island firm, Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) in 2010.
Nigeria's resolve to hunt for P&ID foreign allies followed the ruling of the Federal High Court, Abuja two weeks ago which convicted the firm for fraud and seized its assets in Nigeria as well as wound up the company in the country. Two of its directors, who were brought before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), were also convicted by Justice Inyang Ekwo after they pleaded guilty to the offences they were charged.
A United Kingdom arbitration tribunal had awarded a $9.6billion fine against Nigeria on the basis of the failed contract. But last Thursday, the British commercial court ordered a stay of execution of the judgement of the $9.6 billion fine and granted the federal government leave to appeal the verdict under the condition that it must deposit the sum of $200 million as security within 60 days.
LEADERSHIP gathered yesterday that the federal government is holding talks with some countries hosting the key suspects in the failed gas project to help facilitate their extradition to face prosecution in Nigeria where the offence was committed.
This move was confirmed by the minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), who explained that there was no law preventing Nigeria from arresting and prosecuting those who conspired to swindle the country of billions of naira, while pursuing the case in London to quash the matter concomitantly.
Noting that both criminal and civil matters can run concurrently and that Nigeria would explore same in the circumstance, Malami said: "Criminal and civil cases can run concurrently and we have initiated the process of seeking international collaboration in investigating the criminal aspect by way of invoking mutual legal assistance with international jurisdictions and giving consideration to initiating extradition processes against persons of international interest."
The minister, however, did not name the suspects the federal government planned to repatriate to face trial in Nigeria considering that it is only a few of the directors of the Irish firm that are alive, while most of them have died.
Besides, records of the company with Nigeria's Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) show that only two Nigerians are listed on the board of the shadowy firm, which has no visible presence in either the country's industrial or corporate arena.
Already, an Abuja high court has commenced the trial of a former legal director in the Federal Ministry of Petroleum, Grace Taiga, alleged to have signed the contract papers alongside the late former petroleum minister, Rilwanu Lukman, without passing through the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the Infrastructure Concessionary and Regulatory Commission as required by extant laws of Nigeria.
Malami had led seven lawyers to the UK to defend Nigeria against the $9.6 billion fine, premising the federal government's argument on the admission of guilt by the P&ID directors and the establishment of a case of fraud against the firm in Nigeria.
The AGF who released details of the court proceedings last week, said: "I am pleased with today's development in the court and see this as a positive resolution that constitutes an important step in the government's efforts to defend itself in a fair and just process.
"We look forward to challenging the UK commercial court's recognition of the tribunal's decision in the UK Court of Appeal, uncovering P&ID's outrageous approach for what it is: a sham based on fraudulent and criminal activity developed to profit from a developing country," he said.
Fine, Conspiracy Against Nigeria - Labour
Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) of Nigeria has described the $9.6bn judgement against the country as a serious conspiracy against Nigeria.
In its Independence Day message to Nigerians, the TUC commended the federal government on the efforts it made to save the country from paying the monney to P&ID.
In the message sent by TUC president, Comrade Quadri Olaleye and general secretary, Comrade Musa-Lawal Ozigi, the union implored the government to be more tactful and make consultations.
"This is purely international relations - if they are bent on hitting us we should also look for how we can hit back badly," TUC said.
On the new national pay, the senior workers' union said that it was disturbing that months after the National Minimum Wage Committee (NMC) set up by the government to work on its implementation had submitted its report, the government was still not committed to paying it.
"We are beginning to think that signing it in the first place was because of the 2019 general elections. To talk about setting up another committee over the same issue makes us feel we have been swindled. We have learnt our lessons," the union stated.