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Editorial

That UK Firm’s $9.6 bn Debt Claim

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Penultimate Tuesday, three ministers in charge of Justice, Finance and Information, Abubakar Malami, Zainab Ahmed, and Lai Mohammed as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele, addressed a joint news conference where they confirmed that a probe panel comprising the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), National Intelligence Agency (NIA), and Inspector General of Police, has been set up to review the entire process leading to the award and failure of a 20-year gas supply deal allegedly sealed with an Irish firm – Process & Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) – which has resulted in a $9.6 billion (about N3.5 trillion) fine imposed on August 16, 2019 by a British Commercial Court presided over by Justice Christopher John Butcher, for allegedly defaulting to respect compensation ruling against the previous government in 2012.
The ministers said that government was seriously concerned about the whole circumstances that “smack of an attempt by some local and international collaborators to rip off Nigeria”, for a project that was never executed. In fact, both minister of finance and CBN governor said that there were no records in their books to show that P&ID, as a foreign investor, brought in any tools, equipment or funds for the purposes of establishing a gas processing plant in Cross River State between January, 2010 when the GSPA was executed and 2012, when the firm petitioned the government at the arbitration tribunals in the United States and United Kingdom seeking compensation for defaulting in keeping its own part of the bargain.
We may recall that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the government and P&ID on July 22, 2009 while the Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA) was executed by P&ID founder, Michael Quinn, and the then Petroleum Resources Minister, Dr Rilwanu Lukman, on January 11, 2010. But with the twist in the Umaru Yar’Adua administration leading to his death, and the emergence of Dr Goodluck Jonathan as acting president, the new government of necessity opted in June, 2010, to jettison P&ID and run the Adanga gas pipeline deal with Adax Petroleum, thereby triggering the logjam.
The Tide recalls that the firm had through its representatives, Andrew Stafford, Q.C. of Kobre & Kim claimed that it invested $40 million in the deal, but approached the arbitration tribunal in 2012 to seek compensation for government-induced failure of the contract. In the ruling, Justice Butcher granted P&ID’s right to seize 20 per cent assets of Nigeria’s foreign reserves worth £7.4 billion or $9.6 billion, which is 2.5 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP as punishment for failing to respect the decision of the tribunal on the botched deal.
Only last Thursday, the erstwhile justice minister under President Umaru Yar’Adua, Michael Aandoakaa, denied knowledge of such deal, and claimed that Rilwanu Lukman never submitted any memo on the alleged GSPA to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval. The next day, P&ID published a veiled chronology of interactions between it and the Federal Government from May 3, 2015 through August, 2019, but failed to mention who played roles in its failure, why government dumped it for Adax Petroleum and why the government refused to pay the award since 2012.
It is curious that P&ID offered the Goodluck Jonathan administration to walk away with $850 million on May 3, 2015, and sustained that offer till November, 2015, an amount less than 10 per cent of the actual arbitration award of $9.46 billion.
We are disappointed that the government ignored provisions in its Production Sharing Contract (PSC) agreements with Adax Petroleum and ExxonMobil for the unitisation and monetisation of gas resources in Oil Mining Leases 123 and 67, and went ahead to enter into fresh GSPA with P&ID with no relationship with the IOCs, including its associates – Industrial Consultants International Limited (ICIL) and BVI Company.
We are further worried at the way P&ID took advantage of delay in the formation of a cabinet by President Muhammadu Buhari to obtain consequential awards in its favour, especially the Liability Award on July 17, 2015, and the debt recovery enforcement award on August 16, 2019. We are also concerned at the May 27, 2016 Arbitration Tribunal decision to apply the Procedural Order No 12, which moved jurisdiction of arbitration to London, and undercut the Federal High Court powers to set aside the awards. And we are jolted by the tribunal’s refusal to accept Curtis Mallet, Nigeria’s representative’s requests for time to enable the Federal Government sort things out, and attempts to blame the government and particularly Malami for not playing along.
This, indeed, is the single highest financial liability in Nigeria’s history, and poses devastating consequences for the economy and Nigerians today and in the future, which must not be allowed to stand. But come to think of it: how on earth could this have happened, if not for the connivance of some dubious and unpatriotic Nigerians, who are desperately fighting back attempts to end endemic corruption in the system?
We join the Federal Government and all well-meaning Nigerians to reject this attempt by P&ID and its co-conspirators to plunge Nigeria into endless slavery and poverty, by stopping Andrew Stafford from coming through with his threats ‘to satisfy the terms of the award as soon as possible’. We align with the government’s strategy to thoroughly investigate this investment fiasco and bring all those culpable to justice as quickly as possible. We also charge the government to deploy every diplomatic means available to ensure that P&ID and its proxies do not in any way interfere or seize any assets belonging to Nigeria anywhere in the world, as a ploy to enforce this bogus judgment debt.
This scandalous judgment debt points to a sad culture of negligence and lack of due process which manifested at every stage of the contract and arbitration. We, therefore, insist that the probe should begin from the Ministry of Justice and interrogate Chief Bayo Ojo (SAN) while retired and serving officials of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources should explain to Nigerians why they should vet such opaque contract agreement without aligning all grey but complex areas with extant industry laws in the country.
This tragedy effectively amplifies the conventional lackluster attitude of governments in Nigeria towards debt management, either from domestic creditors or offshore sources. Now that the $9.6 billion scandal has been blown open, with more threats emerging from other failed deals, it is imperative for government to file a stay-of-execution appeal, and engage in efforts to defend the country’s hard-earned $9.6 billion foreign reserve. We also expect an immediate audit of such cases pending at international arbitration courts to ensure they are handled with seriousness and settled in such a manner that they do not threaten Nigeria’s foreign reserves. This is our stand!

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Editorial

Reps’ Alarm On Ebola

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Obviously agitated by the havoc perpetrated by the 2014 Ebola virus crisis, the Federal House of Representatives last week issued a fresh alarm and directive to relevant authorities and stakeholders to enforce checks at the nation’s entry points – airports, seaports and land borders so as to avert another round of disaster by the deadly virus.
Arising from its plenary, the lawmakers unanimously passed two separate resolutions on Ebola, the first being a motion by Paschal Obi entitled: “Looming Reoccurrence of Ebola Crisis In Nigeria” in which the Green Chamber directed the Federal Ministry of Health to deploy all necessary materials and personnel to immediately embark on screening of all passengers at the airports, seaports and land borders as well as for the Federal Government to set aside funds for the management of Ebola virus in the event of its re-occurrence in Nigeria.
Rep Obi, in his motion, explained that considering the proximity of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to Nigeria and other West African countries, the need to put in place adequate mechanism to prevent the resurgence of the pandemic in a densely populated country like Nigeria has become imperative.
Similarly, the House called for the immortalisation of Late Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh for sacrificing her life towards preventing the spread of Ebola virus from Lagos State to other parts of Nigeria in 2014 by naming a public health institution after the medic for her heroic act of patriotism and nationalism.
Well said, The Tide agrees no less with the position of the lawmakers. It is, indeed, apt, timely and commendable that the House could speak out in what is clearly a matter of public interest and urgency which constitutes a clear and present danger to the wellbeing of the citizenry.
Since the Liberian-American diplomat, Patrick Sawyer, brought the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) into Nigeria in 2014, there have been conscious efforts by all stakeholders at governmental and non-governmental levels on preventive and protective measures. Perhaps, that informed the reason why the lawmakers resolved to alert the nation on EVD before we could find ourselves in a messy situation.
Thankfully, Nigerian borders, particularly land entry points remain closed for now and we expect the nation’s security community, especially the Immigration and Customs personnel to be more vigilant and thorough in their screening following reports of Ebola scare in the DRC.
The death of Adadevoh and a nurse that treated Sawyer, still looms large in our psyche and, therefore, no effort should be spared in preventing and containing any outbreak in Nigeria again.
We recall that on October 9, 2014, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) specially acknowledged Nigeria’s positive role in controlling and containing the Ebola epidemic, “Nigeria’s quick responses, including intense rapid contact tracing, tracking, surveillance of potential contacts and isolation of all contacts were of particular importance in controlling and limiting the outbreak,” the ECDC declared, describing Nigeria’s feat as a piece of world-class epidemiological detective work and a spectacular success story.
It is against this backdrop that we think that all critical stakeholders should not relent on the achievements recorded in 2014 in the event of the current EVD scare.
Ebola is widely considered to be worse than HIV/AIDS not because it has no known cure or vaccine. Infected persons face painful death in a matter of days. Regrettably, it has claimed many lives, including heathcare providers who in the discharge of their professional duties paid the supreme price.
Infected persons exhibit symptoms ranging from diarrhea, bleeding, high temperature, haemorrhagic fever, sore throat, among others. This is why we need sensitisation of the populace to track patients that exhibit such symptoms for early treatment and isolation.
With the report of the virus and breakout in the above-named Central African country, Nigerians more than any other time need to be very cautious as conditions that predispose the populace to the virus appear to be everywhere, even as medical experts warn against consumption of ‘bush meat,’ physical contact with infected persons by way of handshake, sexual intercourse and exposure to wild animals and birds. It is worrisome that we cherish the bush meat delicacy as well as live in slum settlements which make our people more vulnerable in case of the virus outbreak.
Our consolation, however, is that the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Union (EU), the Federal Ministry of Health and other critical stakeholders have been striving hard to put in place strategies to combat the scourge.
The time for the media and all stakeholders to synergise towards providing the much-needed sensitisation is now or never. In the main, the least any Nigerian could do, for now, is to remain vigilant and prayerful.

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Editorial

Let Votes Count In Bayelsa, Kogi

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On Saturday, November 16, 2019, the people of Bayelsa and Kogi States, would troop out in their numbers, to vote for candidates of their choice in the governorship elections which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) fixed on that day for the two States.
Expectedly, preparations for the elections have reached an advance stage, as the electoral umpire has put everything in place for a smooth and hitch-free exercise. This time around, expectations are really high for INEC to acquit itself creditably, by ensuring that the elections are not only peaceful but also credible, free and fair.
On this score, feelers indicate that INEC has already distributed over 2.4 million permanent voters cards (PVCs) to the electorate in both states, to ensure that they participate maximally in the electoral process.
INEC chairman, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, while dropping this hint during a quarterly meeting with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Abuja, said a total of 889,308 PVCs were collected in Bayelsa State while 1,485,828 PVCs were collected in Kogi State as at September 30.
Yakubu equally disclosed that the commission had accredited 135 domestic observer groups and 16 foreign observer groups for the polls in both states, hinting that the commission was desirous of deepening transparency and accountability in the conduct of the polls.
There is no doubt that political tension has reached fever pitch in the two states, considering the volatility of these areas, particularly when it comes to matters of politics and elections. To say that the political atmosphere in both states today is fully charged is to state the obvious.
Speculations that violence may characterise and mar the elections are rife. It is even alleged that the various political gladiators in the states are warming up for a serious political showdown come November 16; and are ready to throw everything at their disposal to the ring to ensure that they clinch victory at the polls. The political indices on the ground are frightening.
Just recently, stakeholders from Bayelsa and Kogi States listed violence, vote buying and manipulation of the youths as some of the issues that would determine the outcome of the elections in the two states.
According to one of the stakeholders, apart from violence orchestrated by the Army and other security agencies, the electorate see INEC officials and security agencies as agents of fraud rather than arbiters of fair play.
It is, however, heart-warming that INEC has indicated its willingness and determination to correct the mistakes of the 2019 General Election with the November 16 polls in the two states, stressing that the two elections would correct the mistakes in the general election and set a new standard for future elections.
The chairman of the Board of INEC’s Electoral Institute, Prince Solomon Soyebi, who gave this assurance said, “the elections will provide the commission with yet another opportunity to test-run its policies, process and new initiatives”.
According to the INEC National Commissioner, “Athough the conduct of the 2019 general election and the commission’s performance had some challenges, we can use the 2019 general election as a barometer for comparison with subsequent elections, including the Bayelsa and Kogi governorship elections. Clearly, the commission is not under any illusion about the many issues and challenges posed by the electoral process”.
There is no gain saying the fact that INEC’s performance in the 2019 General Election was not too encouraging, as it fell short of the expectations of most Nigerians. One obvious area where the electoral umpire performed abysmally was the manual recording and transmission of results instead of the electronic transmission from the polling units. It is mind-boggling and shocking that INEC, going by attestation at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, had no server. This, indeed, leaves a sour taste in the month, as it offers and provides room for easy manipulation of results.
The Tide believes that the governorship elections in the two states, this time around, offer INEC another opportunity to redeem its battered image. The polls are, indeed, another litmus test for the electoral body, as all lapses and mistakes of the past must be corrected, through them.
The truth is that we are not yet satisfied with what is on the ground in both states in terms of preparations for the elections. INEC must be thorough. It must do all within its capacity to restore the confidence of Nigerians in the electoral process. This, it can do by being truly neutral and independent.
Above all, all the institutions, including the Police and other security agencies must be up and doing. They must all provide the enabling environment for violence-free, peaceful, free, fair and credible elections to take place in the two states.
There is the need for politics to develop in the country to the point that the people can have confidence in the electoral system in such a way that the electorate, irrespective of political part affiliations, should be allowed to vote for candidates of their choice.
Again, all stakeholders including political parties must realise that what is at stake is the interest of the two states, as it relates to development and good governance. Elections are only vehicles in actualising the yearnings and aspirations of the people in this regard. Elections are never a do or die affair.
Only the best should be allowed to emerge at the end of the day.
Thus, there should be no room for desperation and manipulations. The people must be allowed to vote with their conscience.
It is also high time INEC gave the electronic voting system a shot. It can experiment this with the governorship elections in the two states. There should be no manual thing, as we experienced in the 2019 General Election. The world is still watching. The most important thing is, let the votes count in Bayelsa and Kogi States.

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Editorial

No To Nationwide OPI

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Last week, while deliberating on matters of urgent national importance, the Federal House of Representatives passed a motion suspending a proposed exercise by the Nigerian Army tagged, Operation Positive Identification, OPI.
The exercise which was billed to last between November 1 to December 23, 2019 would require Nigerians to move about with means of identification. According to the Army, the operation would enable them profile Nigerians and identify genuine citizens from aliens, bandits, insurgents, kidnappers and other criminals.
But the Reps members, while unanimously voting against the operation said that the planned exercise was unconstitutional and against the natural rights of Nigerians to free movement.
Also, on Tuesday, Justice Rilwanu Aikawa of Federal High Court, Lagos ordered the Nigerian Army and its Chief of Army Staff (COAS) to suspend the operation, which had already commenced on the first day of the month.
According to Mr. Femi Falana (SAN), who brought the matter before the court, the operation violates his right and that of other Nigerian citizens to liberty, “as encapsulated in Section 35 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, (Cap A10) Laws of Federation of Nigeria, 2004”.
The Tide cannot agree more with the Federal House of Representatives, Justice Aikawa, Mr Falana and indeed many other concerned but silent Nigerians, who would be put through untold hardship if the operation was allowed to live through its schedule.
No matter what may have informed the exercise or the objectives the propounders had hoped to achieve, allowing OPI to be carried out nationwide by the Army would have wrought more agony, tears and complaints on Nigerians.
We think that, apart from being unconstitutional, the Army by their training and operations are not equipped for this kind of operation that is supposed to be civil in nature. It is really undemocratic to over expose the Army to the civilian populace, especially, when there is no war.
It is worrisome that the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari appears to be over-labouring the military with extra responsibilities, most of which are civil in nature, when there are other agencies of government, that should naturally be saddled with such responsibilities. The Army has its roles and responsibilities clearly stated in the Constitution of the country, which mandates them to protect and defend the territorial sovereignty of the nation from external threats and insurrection.
While we are not against the military adopting any measure or tactic, including OPI to check and quell banditry, insurrection and Boko Haram menace, particularly in the North-East and North-West of the country, extending it to all parts of the nation at this time is uncalled for.
Infact, we see OPI as mooted by its sponsors as a high level scam, a kite flown by some highly placed individuals in the corridors of power to rip off the nation, even as it groans under the weight of scarce resources. Therefore, no effort should be spared to discourage and nip the illegality in the bud.
If we must embark on an exercise to profile and identify Nigerians and residents, we believe that the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, the Nigerian Police Force, NPF, the Department of State Services DSS and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC are better equipped for the job. The military, we think, should be left to concern themselves with their constitutional duties, particularly, that of checking external aggression against Nigeria.
Apart from being unconstitutional and uncalled for, OPI across the country at this time will not only exacerbate the existing tension and frustrations in Nigeria, the citizens would be downgraded. The country will be militarised while the international community will also view us as an unsecured nation that is not worthy for investment.
That most Nigerians have either rejected or spoken against OPI at the scale that was put forward by the Army shows that it is not in the interest of the people. Moreso, the fact that sources within the military a few days ago recanted on the OPI and denied ownership of the operation suggests that the operation should be treated with suspicion.
That is why we expect the Presidency to pull the plug on the operation, while the Federal High Court and the National Assembly go beyond suspension of the exercise and cancel it outrightly.

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