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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

Still On PIB

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The House of Representatives has once again pushed to the front burner for passage, the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which has been on the floor of the National Assembly since December, 2008, when it was originally introduced. This piece of legislation has since then undergone several revisions and has been the subject of controversy and debate. Right now, the Bill has been split into four documents.
Interestingly, former President Goodluck Jonathan had on July 18, 2012, presented a new version of the Bill to the Seventh National Assembly for reconsideration and re-enactment. The National Assembly graciously did that but the Bill was not signed into law until that regime fizzled out in 2015.
Inadvertently, another component of the Bill, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), was passed by the Senate in May, 2017, while the House of Representatives followed suit in January, 2018, as part of a package of legislative reform for the oil and gas sector. However, President Muhammadu Buhari withheld his assent, and the document has remained in the cooler since then.
There is no doubt that the Nigerian oil industry is the mainstay of the country’s economy. Keen observers, however, believe that the oil industry is opaque in its dealings, as it is widely seen as a source of corruption in government circles.
Incidentally, various stakeholders within government, oil companies and even civil society organisations equally agree that the oil and gas sector in Nigeria needs urgent reforms. This arises from the fact that the current structures are convoluted and impede effective regulation. This is mainly because of overlapping regulatory functions exercised by multiple agencies which in themselves breed dysfunction.
As it were, the long term consequence of this persisting scenario has been a significant deterioration in the environment of the Niger Delta region as a result of oil spills and gas flaring, which ultimately has impacted negatively on the health of the local people, the loss of agricultural land, and the pollution of its creeks and surrounding seas.
Essentially, these are lapses among others the PIB intends to address. It also aspires to promote transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector. While transparency encourages competition, accountable institutions reassure investors, improve regulation and revenue collection, and these result in higher production and earnings.
Besides, the PIB would also enhance and increase access to information within the sector by opening more kinds of documents and data to public scrutiny, and by so doing, improve incentives for performance and check corruption and other sharp practices within the sector.
It is in cognizance of this fact that the House of Representatives recently set in motion modalities to pass the long-awaited PIB into law in September, by setting up a 30-member committee with five members drawn from each of the six geo-political zones of the country. The Minority Leader of the House, Rep Ndudi Elumelu, told newsmen that the House would go ahead with the process of amending and passing the Bill even without the input of the Executive.
“We don’t need the Executive to tutor us. We are going ahead with considering the Bill,” Elumelu enthused, while another lawmaker, Rep. Nicholas Ossai, advised the President to cooperate with the National Assembly on this piece of legislation, so as to attract more investments to the oil and gas industry. The House and the Senate are expected to resume full business in the second week of September.
The Tide is elated that the House of Representatives has taken a bold step to revisit this nagging issue, and promised to do the needful in ensuring that the Bill is passed into law. We are not unmindful that this is the fourth time the Bill is being introduced and re-introduced without having a smooth sail in the National Assembly.
In fact, the passage of this Bill is long overdue as it has been unnecessarily over-delayed, and we believe that the assurances given by the members of the House of Representatives this time around would be good enough to see this all-important Bill see the light of day once and for all.
The first step, we think, is for the lawmakers to try as much as possible to harmonise the PIB, which has been split into four documents. This will enable the National Assembly to do a more thorough work on the Bill with a view to addressing all grey areas that may stand against it from securing the President’s assent, after it must have been passed into law.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Bill, when passed into law and assented to by the President, would go a long way to bolster the interest and welfare of those who suffer the negative impact of oil exploration in the country. This is particularly so because the Bill is not only for the interest of the Niger Delta alone but also for the entire country, as it would help bring the much-needed peace in the region and facilitate development across the country.
We also lend our voice to the call by the lawmakers and other stakeholders on the Executive to cooperate with the National Assembly in the current move to make the PIB a reality. In fact, this time around, we should never allow primordial sentiments and other considerations for that matter to becloud and override the collective interest and zeal of bringing more investments to the country.
Indeed, in this matter, it behoves the current Federal Government to treat with the same passion the way it has treated Bills like the North East Development Commission, among others. Again, all that is required for us to move forward is for all hands to be on deck to give the PIB the expected push in order to give the country’s ailing economy a boost.

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Editorial

End The Carnage In Southern Kaduna, Now

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It is obvious Kaduna State is gradually becoming the cynosure of banditry in Nigeria. Southern  Kaduna specifically is fast whirling into a killing field. Recently, bandits alleged to be Fulani herdsmen struck in the southern part of the State, cutting down people by the score.
There was likewise a reported killing of 11 people by gunmen in an offensive against Gora Gan village of Zango Kataf Local Government Area. The onslaught came only 24 hours after about 21 people were murdered by supposed bandits at Kukum Daji village in neighbouring Kaura Local Government Area.
In addition, 24 people were purportedly massacred by gunmen in seeming collaborative attacks in three communities of Zango Kataf Local Government Area. Within the period, gory images of slain persons in Southern Kaduna crammed the media space. Again, in March this year, 11 people were reportedly slaughtered despite the curfew imposed on the State to stave off the spread of COVID-19.
Similarly, over 30 people were killed on May 12, 2020, by presumed herdsmen in Kajuru Local Government Area of the State. In the past few weeks, there had been several other reports of killings, especially in the southern part of the State, with several people in hospitals receiving treatment from injuries caused by gunshots.
Regrettably, these assaults and many others occur amid available information that southern Kaduna basks in extensive security deployments, including the Army, Special Forces of both the Army and the Air Force, surveillance aircraft by the Air Force and a squadron of the mobile police force that are on the ground on a 24-hour basis to obviate criminality and keep the peace.
The Presidency had earlier asserted that the problem of insecurity in the area was more sophisticated than many people were inclined to admit. According to Presidency sources, the situation in Southern Kaduna is a combination of politically-motivated banditry, retributive killings and reciprocal violence by criminal gangs acting on ethnic and religious bases.
That explanation by the Presidency is provocative and unacceptable. Such a statement amounts to defence for the continual violence. It is immaterial whether the killings were inspired by vengeance, religio-ethnic factors or politics. Is this why no one is charged for the crimes? The government must realise that it is obligated to the citizens for the protection of their lives and property and hence, must stop the outrageous acts.
We are indeed horrified by the ostentatious show of violence, bloodshed and devastation in Southern Kaduna. Consequently, we advise the government at all levels to halt the horrendous trend immediately more so as the military has been strained beyond their threshold with security operations all over the country.
It is common knowledge that our armed forces have been engaged in the war against insurgency in the North East, and banditry in the North West and parts of the North Central respectively. These are in addition to the kidnappings and other criminality being perpetrated on a high scale all over the country.
The relentless killings in Southern Kaduna should be of a considerable burden to the government since they have failed abysmally to secure the citizenry, mainly the people of Southern Kaduna. The Presidency’s insistence that troop deployments in the area can encompass the bloodshed going on is most unfortunate, the reaction by the State government is no better.
In the build-up to the 2019 polls, Governor Nasir El-Rufai admitted that the State he governed was ravaged by internal contretemps. Hear him: “No matter who I choose as my running mate, even if I choose the Pope, 67 per cent of the Christians in Southern Kaduna have made up their minds that they will never vote for me. This is what the polls show. So, for me, that is not the issue.
“The issue is this: Kaduna State is divided, it needs to be united. The way to begin to unite it is to take religion or ethnicity off the table. Since 1992, every deputy governor of Kaduna has been a Christian. What has it done for the state? Has it united the state? Has it assuaged the feelings of the Christian minority?”
Since the governor knew that there was no love lost between him and the people of Southern Kaduna, he should have resolved his brawls with them, win their trust and take the battle to the criminals. This has not been done. Rather, the relationship between him and the people of Southern Kaduna has deteriorated in recent times, with many of them denouncing his response to the homicides.
On its part, the Federal Government must utilise resources at its disposal to assist the Kaduna State government to end the bloodshed. Many residents of Southern Kaduna claim that the killers are Fulani bandits. That is why President Muhammadu Buhari and El-Rufai need to dispel the impression that they have failed to halt the killings because they are of the same ethnic stock as the culprits.
We maintain that the reason for the recurring crises in parts of Kaduna State is the inability of the authorities to deal decisively with felons and perpetrators of the killings. Nevertheless, in this onerous task of finding a peaceful solution to the crises in the troubled State, the government needs the backing of political, religious and traditional rulers. Everyone must be orientated towards one direction – peace and religious tolerance.

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Editorial

Still On Call For National Unity

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Fifty years after the Nigerian Civil War, which claimed well over 2.5 million lives, destroyed hundreds of thousands of properties, and rendered millions permanently maimed and traumatised in just about three years, principal actors, survivors, political leaders, historians, activists and other players in the Nigerian Project, not too long ago, converged to provoke a sombre reflection, and warned against utterances and actions capable of triggering the disintegration of the country while advising that the catastrophe of the war years should serve as pivotal driving force for the promotion of peace, national reconciliation, cohesion and unity.
The warning was accentuated by diverse leaders across the nation from different professions, religious and ethnic orientations at the ‘Never Again Conference 2020’ organised by the Igbo think-tank, Nzuko Umunna and Ndigbo Lagos, in collaboration with civil society organisations. At the core of the conference was an x-ray of the major causes and consequences of the ill-fated Civil War and a critical appraisal of the present state of the nation which shows a seemingly dangerous replay of events in virtually all spheres of the Nigerian state.
Consequently, speaker after speaker noted that the complex dynamics, including heavily diverse cultures, tradition, religious affiliations and social backgrounds which have made it difficult for Nigerians to forge a strong, virile, progressive, peaceful and united nation, should be quickly harnessed, coalesced and woven together in harmony to shut out any tendency to plunge the country into another Civil War. They regretted that the failure of Nigeria to move forward in peace and sustainable progress was because of the brazen disrespect of the majority and crass insistence of a minority group to foist its interests in the workings of the executive, legislative, judicial and even military and security superstructures without regard to the consequential violent implosion which such could unleash on the nation.
The leaders pointed at the various unfolding events of the last few years, including rising cases of abuse of power, outright impunity, looting of national treasury and assets, disregard for the rule of law and constitutionality, nepotism, tribalism, lack of compliance with the federal character principle, and targeted systemic violent attacks, killings and acts of war against people of other ethnic groups, and warned that the situation was capable of forcing the majority to fight back, thereby pushing the country into the brink of another Civil War.
The Tide completely agrees that the songs of war, inciting, toxic and inflammatory attacks on people of other ethnic groups are heightening tension. We worry that violent attacks, killings, and kidnapping of people of certain tribes, religion and/or perceived to be of a given social status are taking a dangerous crescendo too. Even the deliberate government strategy to recruit and appoint people from a section of the country into virtually all critical sectors, agencies or departments at the federal level calls for concern.
We, therefore, caution harbingers of discord and war to remember the atrocities of the Civil War and realise that so many things have changed and that the result of another potential war may never be the same. We say so because history tells us that no nation has ever survived two civil wars intact.
While we insist that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria is non-negotiable, we appeal to all players to respect the expressed interests of others, and allow the divergent views to co-exist for the peace and unity of the nation. Indeed, the best way to bring this to life is to key into the urgency to restructure the country with the objective of giving the people a true and acceptable federal structure under which each federating unit would deploy its resources to conquer poverty amongst the people while the rich and the poor cohabit in harmony.
We believe that only a patriotic commitment to peaceful and united Nigeria would lead the present and future generations to a country with tolerant and inclusive political, economic, social and security systems for all. To achieve these, our leaders must entrench the core values of democratic principles and eschew ethnic, religious differences so that the country’s driving force can revert to the ideal: merit, hardwork, creativity and innovation.
For us, there is no better time to raise the alarm than now because the fabric of the Nigerian state has been threatened and weakened by years of degenerate government tactics aimed at marginalising and alienating the majority in governance, repression and deployment of brute force to crush opposition, glorification of injustice and inequality, and other antics that enhance division and incite people to hate.
This is why we urge leaders in various sectors to heed the lesson of the Civil War and the clarion call to do everything within their powers to promote peaceful coexistence and national unity. This is a call to duty and a task for all Nigerians.

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