$9.6bn judgment: Probe extensive, intensive, borderless, says Malami

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The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said there is no limit to those being quizzed by security agencies over the controversial gas contract for which a United Kingdom court has asked the Process and Industrial Developments Limited to seize $9.6bn in Nigerian assets.
Although he said he would not be specific on personalities, the minister disclosed that all those involved in the drafting of the controversial agreement, those who took part in the signing of the agreement and conduct of the contract were under investigation.
Malami disclosed these in an interview with journalists in Abuja on Sunday.
He gave an indication that security agents would extend their investigation beyond the nation’s borders.
He said, “There is indeed an ongoing investigation being extensively and intensively carried out by agencies of government.
”It (the investigation) is indeed concerted. It is borderless and there are no limitations as to who and who can be invited and who cannot be invited.
“I wouldn’t like to be specific on personalities, but I want to state categorically that those that were involved in the process of drafting the agreement, signing the agreement and conduct of the contract are being investigated for the purpose of establishing the existence of fraud or otherwise.”
Despite the Federal Government’s position that the contract was fraudulent in nature, Malami explained that the government took the earlier decision to negotiate with the firm because at the inception of the present administration, there was already an award and the timeline for government to appeal had elapsed.
He said since the previous government of the Peoples Democratic Party did not appeal, the option left for the administration as of the time was to negotiate despite its reservations about the contract.
He explained, “As of the time we came on board, there was already an award of about $6.9bn. As of that time, the time which we would have appealed had already elapsed.
“There was no time for us to appeal because the previous administration did not appeal against the judgment when it was made in June 2014.
“So, with the lapsing of time to appeal, you could not have filed an application to either set aside the award or to stay execution. You require the leave of the court to appeal an award. That leave would have been very difficult because Nigeria as of then had been adjudged to have slept over its rights to appeal.
“The only option open was to consider the possibility of negotiating, which was what informed our decision to consider the possibility of negotiation.
He also said the previous administration and the lawyers it hired should also be blamed for the court case instituted on the matter in a Nigerian court which was struck out due to lack of diligence prosecution.
Malami also said as part of strategies to get reprieve for the country, the government was working towards establishing the fact that fraud was involved in the conception of the contract.
He said once fraud could be established, it would be a good ground to set aside the award.
The minister added, “Along the line of negotiation, many facts came to light, inclusive of the fact that gave rise to the possibility of insinuation of fraudulent underhand among the parties involved.
“And for your information, legally speaking, fraud could be a ground for setting aside an award without necessarily having to go through the rules of seeking for leave.
“If you can establish fraud, there is no time limit within which you can raise it, as against appealing the award of the decision of the tribunal on the basis of law of facts
“So, when fraudulent insinuations manifested in the course of the engagement, it is only logical that Nigeria should have a consideration for investigation relating to the fraudulent elements which could afford the country an opportunity to have the entire award set aside if fraud can be established

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