The Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation (CNJF) has sent a freedom of information request to Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation (AGF), over Nigeria’s non-appearance in a case that could cost the country $8 billion.
Process and Industrial Developments Limited (P&ID) had sued the Nigerian government for an alleged breach of contract over a 2010 natural gas supply and processing agreement.
P&ID, with headquarters in British Islands, filed an arbitration case against Nigeria in London and was awarded $6,597,000,000 on January 31, 2017.
Curiously, Nigeria did not challenge the award.
Then on March 16, 2018, P&ID filed a petition in a district court in Washington, DC, to confirm the arbitral award and ask for an additional payment of $2.3 billion in interest.
Curiously, again, Nigeria did not show up in court, and a total of $8 billion has now been awarded against the country.
CNJF, a not-for-profit organisation that uses the vehicle of journalism to advance transparency and accountability in government, is seeking clarity from the AGF on why Nigeria was not represented and defended in Washington when an application for enforcement was filed.
The two parties, P&ID and the federal government had reportedly agreed that London should be the seat of arbitration, but a federal high court of Nigeria granted Nigeria’s request to set aside the award, arguing that the seat of arbitration was Nigeria.
In the FoI request received June 13, CNJF is asking for documents detailing this agreement and why Nigeria has not challenged the award in the United Kingdom or elsewhere.
The request is in line with Section 4 of the FoI act, 2011 which requires a public institution to ensure that information referred to is widely disseminated and made readily available to members of the public. Sections 4 and 5 of the act provide that a public official or institution should grant access to a request for records or information within a time limit of seven days.
The AGF is yet to respond to this request.
In December, 2017, the foundation had also requested from the AGF information on the engagement of lawyers for the recovery of funds stolen by Sani Abacha, a former military ruler.
Nigerian lawyers, Oladipo Okpeseyi, a senior advocate, and Temitope Isaac Adebayo, were engaged by Malami in 2016 apparently to duplicate the job of Enrico Monfrini, the Swiss lawyer who had completed the job.
The AGF acknowledged receipt of the request, but did not give any response.
CNJF has gone to court seeking an order of mandamus compelling the AGF to make available the information and documents requested from its office pursuant to the FoI act, 2011.
CNJF is a partner organisation to TheCable.