The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday called its fourth prosecution witness in the trial of a former Director, Legal Services of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, who is accused of “corruptly receiving” money in relation to a 2010 agreement between the ministry and a firm, Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID).
The controversial Gas Supply and Processing Agreement (GSPA), described as fraudulent by the Nigerian government, led to the $9.6 billion judgement given by a British court against Nigeria and in favour of P&ID.
Grace Taiga was accused of corruptly receiving $4,969.5 from the owners and promoters of P$ID, a firm incorporated in British Virgin Island, in relation to her roles in the GSPA, on December 30, 2009.
An EFCC operative, Aminu Lawal, who testified in the case at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, said Mrs Taiga received the money from a P&ID affiliate, Marsh Pearl Ltd, through her daughter, Vera Ename Moses Taiga.
“The money was paid by Marsh Pearl Ltd, through her daughter’s account 11 days before the signing of the GSPA,” the fourth prosecution witness said.
He added, “We discovered that on January 30, 2012, the sum of $5,000 was also paid into her daughter’s account at HSBC Bank, London, located at Canada Street. The purpose of the payment on the transaction is commission payment. We obtained her statement based on that.”
The GSPA, which the Nigeria government was designed to fail to the detriment of the country, was signed between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and P&ID on January 11, 2010 purportedly to boost the country’s electricity supply.
In 2017, P&ID was awarded $6.6 billion in arbitration as compensation for losses it allegedly incurred because of alleged breach of the GSPA by Nigeria.
The award subsequently affirmed by a British court has since risen to $9.6 billion with interest.
Nigeria is still battling to overturn the award at the British court.
The Nigerian government argues that the agreement was fraudulent as it was signed without due process.
It presented to the British court the outcome of its investigations showing that officials were bribed to sign the agreement.
EFCC has since 2019 charged various individuals and corporate bodies with various offences in connection with the P$ID deal.
While P&ID itself and its Nigerian affiliate have been convicted by a Nigerian court in relation to the scam, other individuals associated with the firm are currently facing charges.
But P&ID has rejected the investigations and convictions saying they were being done to arm-twist it into submission.
Prosecution witness testifies further
Mrs Taiga faces 13 amended counts concerning the deal at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. She has since pleaded not guilty to all charges.
According to a statement by EFCC’s spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, EFCC’s operative, Aminu Lawal, said in his testimony as the fourth prosecution witness, that he found out that Mrs Taiga “witnessed the GSPA.”
“She also drafted the GSPA when she was at the Ministry of Petroleum Resources as Director Legal,” he added.
Led in evidence by the prosecuting counsel, Mohammed Abbah, Mr Lawal told the court that his team received a petition dated June 28, 2018, signed by the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, conveying the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the GSPA should be carried out. “I came to know the defendant when the investigation commenced.”
The witness further told the court that his team discovered a lot of discrepancies including an unsigned agreement between the Ministry of Defence and Khristolm Limited.
He said, “We discovered one unsigned agreement between the Ministry of Defence and Khristolm Limited, a company owned and controlled by P&ID Limited and the promoters of P&ID are Michael Quinn, Brendan Cahill, James Nolan and Niel Hitchob.
“We wrote a letter of investigation to the Ministry of Defence to give us the details of the contract awarded to the companies that are related to P&ID. Investigation revealed that Marsh Pearl Limited were given contract in which the defendant witnessed the agreement between the Ministry of Defence and Marsh Pearl Limited sometime in 2005.”
Documents which included search warrant, the response from the Ministry of Defence, details of transactions and certificate of compliance were tendered in evidence and admitted by the court.
The trial judge, Olukayode Adeniyi, adjourned the case until March 8 and 16, 2022, for cross-examination of the prosecution witness.
EFCC initially arraigned Mrs Taiga on eight counts in September 2020, but amended the charges, scaling the counts up to 13.
EFCC said, for allegedly corruptly receiving the sums of money from P&ID, Mrs Taiga committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 8(1)(a) and (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
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