President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned Nigerian officials who oversaw the problematic gas processing contract with Processing and Industrial Development Limited, an Irish engineering firm.
Mr Buhari promised to punish all Nigerians involved for their “corrupt and unpatriotic” act that threw Nigeria into a $9 billion arbitration liability.
“The P&ID arbitral award has underscored the manner in which significant economic damage has been caused by the past activities of a few corrupt and unpatriotic Nigerians,” Mr Buhari said in his speech to Nigerians at 59th independence.
The president said new measures were being institutionalised to ensure that no public official gets away with similar “criminal and unpatriotic acts” in future.
“Our renewed partnership with the 9th National Assembly will facilitate the swift passage of enabling laws that will institutionalise these anti-corruption efforts in our criminal justice system,” Mr Buhari said.
“In this connection, I call upon our States to intensify their own efforts to instil greater fiscal transparency and accountability. And to ensure greater fiscal efficiency and optimum use of our very scarce resources,” he added.
Nigeria entered into a gas processing and supply contract with P&ID in 2010. The Irish firm was tasked with ending hazardous incineration of Nigeria’s abundant gas supply by processing it for home and industrial use.
Even though Mr Jonathan had not been designated Nigeria’s president as of January 11, 2010, when the contract was signed, he was in charge during the botched implementation. He assumed office as acting president on February 9, 2010, barely a month after the contract was signed.
It was also under Mr Jonathan that P&ID alleged breach of contract and sought a heavy settlement.
Still, PREMIUM TIMES found that Mr Buhari was himself not without culpability, despite his attempt to blame Mr Jonathan and his administration officials solely for the botched contract that now threatens Nigeria’s fiscal stability.
Documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES showed that Mr Buhari mismanaged the crisis and allowed the settlement to skyrocket from $850 million when he assumed office to $9.6 billion and counting today. An estimated $1.2 million is believed to be growing on the arbitral award per day.
Mr Jonathan’s government negotiated the $850 million settlement deal with P&ID, but deferred payment to Mr Buhari, who was then a president-elect.
However, Mr Buhari, his attorney-general, Abubakar Malami, and other officials abandoned the agreement and also failed to properly argue their decision before an arbitration tribunal. In hindsight, analysts said the crisis would have been significantly mitigated if the payment schedule prepared by the Jonathan administration had been followed.
Following weeks of controversy over the enforcement of the arbitral award by P&ID, Nigeria successfully argued in court a stay of execution. The stay of execution, which was contingent on Nigeria’s deposit of $200 million in 60 days, would enable Nigeria to appeal the arbitration tribunal’s decision and hold off P&ID’s moves to seize Nigeria’s assets abroad.
A spokesperson for Mr Jonathan did not immediately return requests for comments about the former president’s involvement in the P&ID case and the recent developments around it.
In his Independence Day broadcast, the president urged Nigerians to report corrupt and unethical practices.
“I will also call upon all Nigerians, from every walk of life, to combat corruption at every turn by choosing to question and confront corrupt practices, by reporting unethical practices or through whistleblowing,” he said. “Together, we can overcome corruption and will no longer be a country defined by corruption.”