Shaistah.Akhtar (partner at Mishcon de Reya who led Nigeria’s legal team)
In his landmark judgement, Justice Robin Knowles CBE found that Process & Industrial Developments Limited (P&ID) had obtained the award “only by practising the most severe abuses of the arbitral process”. The judge found that P&ID, and certain individuals associated with it, had committed bribery throughout the arbitration, had submitted and relied on knowingly false evidence, and had corruptly and improperly obtained and utilised Nigeria’s internal legal documents to benefit its own position in the arbitration.
Although the judge said he did not accept all of Nigeria’s allegations with regard to P&ID and the contract, he said “the awards (of the contract) were obtained by fraud … and the way in which they were procured was contrary to public policy.” He found that P&ID had paid bribes to a Nigerian oil ministry official in connection with the gas contract signed in 2010, and had failed to disclose this when it later took Nigeria to arbitration over the collapse of the deal.
“After several years of hard-fought legal proceedings, this is a hugely important decision for the people of Nigeria given the significant financial implications that the enforcement of a judgement this size would have had on the Nigerian economy. It also serves as notice to future litigants that Nigeria is taking a firm stance on attempts by fraudsters to cash-in through the use of spurious claims,” read a statement by Mishcon de Reya, the firm which was instructed by Nigeria to uncover the fraud and corruption perpetrated against it by P&ID.
Former Nigerian President Buhari's eight-year administration started a campaign to root out corruption and the fight has been continued by current President Tinubu who welcomed the judgement. “This landmark judgment proves conclusively that nation states will no longer be held hostage by economic conspiracies between private firms and solitarily corrupt officials who conspire to extort and indebt the very nations they swear to defend and protect,” read a statement by the President.
“Today’s victory is not for Nigeria alone. It is a victory for our long exploited continent and for the developing world at large, which has for too long been on the receiving end of unjust economic malpractice and overt exploitation,” the President stated.
The two-month long hearing was in response to a London arbitration tribunal’s finding in January 2017 that Nigeria repudiated a gas supply and processing agreement with P&ID, and which awarded $6.6 billion plus 7% interest.
In 2010, P&ID entered into a contract to build a natural gas processing plant in Calabar, which would process gas supplied by Nigeria over 20 years. The contract fell through before the plant was built. Nigeria’s legal team argued that P&ID procured the contract by paying bribes to Nigerian officials. P&ID denied any wrongdoing and did not accept that the awards in its favour should be set aside.
Commenting on the ruling, Shaistah Akhtar, the partner at Mishcon de Reya who led Nigeria’s legal team, said, “Today’s judgement is a historic result for Nigeria and its people. The Nigerian Government’s resolve in pursuing a just outcome led to it uncovering overwhelming evidence of bribery and corruption. We are pleased that the judge recognised the severity of the fraud perpetrated against the people of Nigeria in his judgement, and trust that this landmark decision will deter other potential fraudsters and their backers from exploiting the legal system in the pursuit of monetary gain.”
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