By John Opeyemi
Corruption may be said to be endemic in Nigeria, especially concerning government-related businesses, there still exist some patriots in our dear country who will not, no matter what, betray their country for money. This is one lesson that can be learnt from the trending P&ID $11 billion scam.
The Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) role in seeing that Nigeria triumphed in respect of the Process & Industrial Limited (P&ID) $11 billion suit against Nigeria, underscores the importance the apex bank attaches to ensuring that the country is not defrauded through phony contracts.
When the Federal Government decided to raise the committee that led the battle against P&ID, the Committee did not waste time in realizing the important role CBN could play to ensure its victory in the case.
The Committee comprised of the Attorney General of the Federation, Governor of CBN, IGP, Chairman EFCC. NNPC was to join later
Specifically, the EFCC wanted a lawyer from the CBN to be in the Committee. The name Kofo Salam-Alada who was then serving as Director of Consumer Services Department of the CBN, was mentioned, this writer learnt.
He eventually emerged as the Coordinator of the FGN P&ID Team. He was the go-to person for everything P&ID. He was the liaison between the UK lawyers of the FGN and law enforcement agencies in Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Petroleum, and Office of the Vice President. He also coordinated the activities of the Nigerian lawyers appointed to provide support to the UK lawyers.
Ministry officials confirmed that Kofo Salam-Alada was a thorn in their flesh as “he would not allow anyone rest until he got documents or any information he wanted.” “He was indeed a pest”, a source disclosed. At a point, FRN Lawyers became suspicious of government officials. Kofo was the only one they could trust.
No wonder when the euphoria was yet to die down, the former Minister and Attorney General, Chief Michael Aondoakaa, who also played an active role in seeing that Nigeria triumphed in the case, was interviewed and he mentioned some names who were instrumental to the success of Nigeria in the P&ID issue. He was particularly full of praise for Kofo Salam-Alada who he described as “a young man, the Director of Legal Services in the CBN”.
Attempts to reach the Director have been unsuccessful but sources confirmed Chief Andoakaa’s description of his role in the P&ID case.
The former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), revealed how the immediate-past governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN, Godwin Emefiele saved the country billions of dollars that would otherwise have been paid as arbitral award to a foreign company, Process & Industrial Developments.
Speaking on an Arise Television breakfast show, Aondoakaa who was AGF when P&ID agreed with Nigeria in 2010 to build a gas processing plant in Calabar, Cross River State, said the CBN under Emefiele, greatly assisted Nigeria’s legal team in the case instituted against Nigeria in a London court.
P&ID had said the contract failed because the Nigerian government breached the terms of the contract. It therefore approached the courts where on January 31, 2017 it succeeded in securing an arbitral award of $6.6 billion against Nigeria as well as pre-and post-judgment interest at seven percent.
Speaking on the development, Aondoakaa who was part of the consortium of senior lawyers interfacing with Nigeria’s lawyers at the London court, also urged the current Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation AGF, Lateef Fagbemi SAN to look at other fraudulent cases filed against the country.
He said: “This fraud has been exposed and it gives us a window to look at other similar cases like Ajaokuta and the rest of them that they hurriedly went abroad, got arbitration and are trying to enforce against Nigeria.
“I particularly give credit to the CBN under the then Governor, Godwin Emefiele because there was strong pressure that settlement should be made. Our team was in the minority and we must fight till the end. There was also apprehension that if we didn’t settle and the court now gave judgment against us, Nigeria would lose everything.
“But for them to have confidence in us, there was one young man in the CBN, the Director Legal Services, he gave us the confidence, gave us the support and ensured that we were able to present to the UK lawyers that this was a fraud. So, I am most grateful, I completely agree with the honourable Attorney General that this is a big fraud.”
Aside, Aondoakaa’s comment on Emefiele confirmed what presidency sources revealed at the time that many including a top government official then mounted pressure on President Buhari to approve payment for the award to avoid heavier penalty if the matter dragged on.
Emefiele was said to have resisted and advised the President strongly against such approval, staking his name in convincing the President that the contract was fraudulent and that the P &ID would not succeed in court if Nigeria hired competent lawyers. It was based on the assurances of Emefiele that President Buhari refused payment and rather encouraged litigation which eventually favoured Nigeria. Han
The P&ID scam was a looming national calamity whose stoppage called for former Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari’s moving commentary, a rare one for that matter as recorded in his X handle @MBuhari.
Said Buhari: “Rarely in modern times can so few have tried to take so much from so many. If Nigeria had lost its arbitration dispute with Process and Industrial Development in a London court on 23 October , it would have cost our people close to USD15 billion.
“We won and all decent people can sleep easier as a result. Justice Robin Knowles said Nigeria had been a victim of a monstrous fraud… Had Nigeria lost, it would have required schools not to be built, nurses not to be trained and roads not to be repaired, on an epic scale, to pay a handful of contractors, lawyers and their allies – for a project that never broke ground.”
What an amazing lifeline our dear patriots have endowed us with! Thumbs up for you.