Nigeria to appeal $8.9bn British court judgement

UK court orders forfeiture of $9bn Nigeria’s foreign reserve
The Nigerian government said on Friday that it is considering all available options to resist the decision of a British court to grant enforcement right to an $8.9billion (about N3.2 trillion) arbitral award against the country.

The United Kingdom, Business & Property Courts (the Commercial Court), presided by Justice Butcher granted P&ID’s enforcement request to enforce a March 20, 2013 award against Nigeria by a District Circuit Court in Washington DC.

Friday’s award converts the arbitration award into a domestic UK judgment against Nigeria.

The initial award of $6.6 billion as damages was in favour of a British engineering firm, Process & Industrial Development Limited (P&ID), which accused the Nigerian government of breaching a 2010 gas contract agreement.

The tribunal said the damages were calculated as the present value of 20-year income, minus certain capital and operating costs incurred from building and running the refining facility.

The award was handed by a tribunal constituted under the rules of the Arbitration Act 1996 (England and Wales) and the Nigerian Arbitration and Conciliation Act (CAP A18 LFN 2004).

Despite the award against it, Nigeria refused to enter an appeal for over five years. The initial award rose to about $8.9billion including an additional $2.3 billion in accumulated interest at 7 per cent rate per annum.

That latest development may portend a major blow to Nigeria, whose economy is still struggling to maintain stability several months after managing to pull out of one of the worst recessions in its history.

P&ID has already signified its intention to target Nigerian assets in order to enforce the judgement.

“We are pleased that the Court has rejected Nigeria’s objections both to the arbitration process and to the amount of the award and that it will grant permission to P&ID to begin enforcement of the award in the United Kingdom.

“The Court has ruled decisively in P&ID’s favour and has comprehensively rejected Nigeria’s efforts to avoid payment of this award of over $9.6 Billion. P&ID is committed to vigorously enforcing its rights, and we intend to begin the process of seizing Nigerian assets in order to satisfy this award as soon as possible,” Andrew Stafford Q.C. of Kobre & Kim said on behalf of the company.

The Permanent Secretary and Solicitor General of the Federation, Dayo Apata, said in a statement on Friday in Abuja that the government will vigorously defend Nigeria’s rights to protect its people’s assets around the world against the enforcement of the judgment.

“Nigeria intends to strongly avail itself of all defences customarily afforded to sovereign states under the United Kingdom Sovereign Immunity Act at any such enforcement actions,” Akpata said.

He said Nigeria decided to move against the enforcement of the award based on experts report, which analysed the damages awarded P&ID as being “clearly unreasonable and manifestly excessive and exorbitant.”

Apata said the courts “went far beyond any legitimate protection of the commercial interests to overcompensate P&ID on a, frankly, gargantuan scale, and impose[d] a punitive award on Nigeria”.

Describing the ruling as “completely wrong and obviously unjustifiable,” Apata said these informed the Nigerian government’s decision to take all available steps to resist enforcement before the courts of the United Kingdom.

He said government’s counsel has been instructed to pursue an appeal on the judgment of the English Court to secure a stay of execution, apart from other efforts in the courts of the United States of America to protect Nigeria’s interests.

“Nigeria is making vigorous efforts to defend its interest in this matter and would not relent in exploring every viable option in doing so,” he said.

On January 11, 2010, P&ID signed a gas supply and processing agreement with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources on behalf of the Nigerian government.

Under the terms of the agreement, P&ID was to build and operate an Accelerated Gas Development project to be located at Adiabo in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State.

The federal government was to source for natural gas from oil mining leases (OMLs) 123 and 67 operated by Addax Petroleum and supply to P&ID to refine into fuel suitable for power generation in the country.

Nigeria was expected to supply an initial volume of about 150 million cubic feet of gas per day. Eventually, it was to be ramped up to about 400 million cubic feet per day during the 20-year period.

However, P&ID alleged that after signing the agreement, the Nigerian government reneged on its obligation after negotiations were opened with the Cross River State government for allocation of land for the project.

P&ID said the failure to construct the pipeline system to supply the gas frustrated the construction of the gas project, thereby depriving it of the potential benefits from over 20 years’ worth of gas supplies.

The company said attempts to settle out-of-court with the Nigerian government failed.