A United States district court has ordered the Nigerian government and British Virgin Island engineering firm, P&ID, to hold a telephonic conference to determine whether a lingering document dispute can be resolved without court intervention.
District Judge Lorna Schofield said that the parties should file a joint letter advising the court on the results of the meet and confer process.
The new development is in relation to an alleged bribery scheme and subsequent $9.6 billion arbitral claim which the Nigerian government seeks to overturn.
Last week, PREMIUM TIMES exclusively reported that Nigeria is locked in a fresh legal battle with the controversial British Virgin Island engineering firm, over the use of bank records obtained by the Nigerian authorities.
Documents obtained by PREMIUM TIMES showed the company requested a ‘pre-motion discovery conference’ with the court in its bid to stop the Nigerian government from using certain information obtained from banks in the United States.
In May, this newspaper reported how the Nigerian government demanded records of 60 companies and individuals from 10 banks in the United States, including Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., as part of its efforts to overturn the controversial $9.6 billion P&ID fine.
Among the individuals whose bank records were being sought are a former Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan; his wife, Patience Jonathan; among others.
Nigeria asked a federal court in New York for permission to subpoena information about transactions involving government officials who were in office when the state signed a contract with Process & Industrial Developments Ltd., and later became involved in a costly dispute with the company.
P&ID in its claim said that Nigeria obtained a significant amount of discovery “that is outside the scope of the subpoenas authorised by the Court”.
It requested a protective order requiring that “Nigeria destroy and stop using or distributing this information, which it should never have obtained in the first place.”
It also requested an order that limits Nigeria’s use of any discovery obtained to the foreign proceedings for which Nigeria insisted that it was seeking discovery in certain criminal investigations and prosecutions in Nigeria.
But Nigeria in its counter-application, among other requests, urged the court to “reject P&ID’s baseless application.”
The P&ID case became a full-blown crisis for Nigeria last August when a London judge ruled P&ID could enforce an arbitration tribunal’s 2017 ruling, now totaling $9.6 billion including interest, which found the country breached the agreement.
Nigeria’s chances of annulling the giant penalty lie on proving the 2010 gas supply arrangement was a sham designed to fail by P&ID and government officials.
An investigation by PREMIUM TIMES also revealed that the gas supply arrangement was designed to fail partly because the company had neither the expertise nor did the government put in place necessary mechanisms for its success.
In its latest order, the court noted that if any disputes remain after the parties meet and confer, the parties shall file simultaneous letter briefs to the court. They are also expected to state their respective positions on how the court should dispose of the remaining document disputes.
“The letter briefs may be no greater than four pages, single spaced,” court documents seen by PREMIUM TIMES said.
The court also noted that Nigeria described a proposed protective order that is “pending before the Court”, adding that it must provide the docket number of the proposed order.
In his response, Christopher Major, attorney to the Nigerian government disclosed that the docket number for the “Proposed Stipulated Protective Order Between Applicants and Respondent JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A.”, is ECF 21.
In the letter directed to the court dated July 9, also seen by this newspaper, Nigeria’s attorney added that counsels for JPMorgan Chase Bank and Process and Industrial Developments Limited, were copied to the letter.
The parties are expected to file simultaneous letter briefs detailing the outcome of their telephone conference on July 21, the judge said.