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A poor reading of the verdict by
the London court slapping a historic penalty of $9b on Nigeria last Friday is
viewing it as an affirmation of the law of contract. No, it is not. Rather, it
is the orchestration of international politics and neo-colonial power-play at
Indeed, let no one be deceived
that objectivity is assured in the interpretation of international law by even
angels, especially when the interests of multinationals are in dispute
concurrently across jurisdictions. In such circumstance, pure nationalistic
instinct is likely to trump fidelity to reason or the universal principle of
For ages, the doctrine of
sovereign immunity was, for instance, often invoked by powerful nations of the
West to commit blue murder anywhere across the universe. But good students of
history will recall that attempt later in the 70s by newly independent African
nations to draw on the same principle ended ghastly. In the international
court, it now became fairly convenient to invert Lord Denning’s new theory of
“market place” to hand Nigeria the short end of the stick in the landmark case
of Swiss-owned Trendtex versus Central Bank of Nigeria.
A similar – if not identical –
conflict is what is being stoked invariably by P&ID vs Nigeria. In choosing
not to view things from the prism of the U.S. court (which can justifiably be
seen as unencumbered by any possible nationalist bias), there is, therefore, a
compelling reason to see the London court’s Justice Christopher Butcher as
bending the arch of justice to favour a home company, with a covetous eye on
Nigeria’s substantial assets domiciled within the U.K.
Given the severity of the penalty
awarded, it was as if Justice Butcher opted to literally act out his fearsome
name by dealing savage knife blows on Nigeria’s jugular.
What then appears ludicrous back
at home has been the attempt by some cynical elements to scrounge some mileage
from this sad development for their petty partisan politics. Only genuine
patriots would have seen the development first as more of a huge slap on the
nation by foreign interests, even if our leadership failing to an extent would
still be admitted.
Note, the local airwaves had
barely crackled by midday with the highlight of the London judgement when the
social media was drowned with the hysteria of PDP agents against President
Muhammadu Buhari as the sole culprit. They claimed the fine resulted
essentially from his malicious discontinuation of another of Jonathan’s
But when more media insights
began to pour in, that spin had to be modified ingeniously. The following day,
Jonathan’s salespeople decided to sweep the entire blame to the gravesides of
both ex-President Umar Yar’Adua and Rilwan Lukman now incapable of defending
Now, let us concede that Jonathan
was completely locked out of Aso Rock while the sneaky contract was being
facilitated by “the cabal” as the then ailing president was gasping for oxygen
and Lukman (the oil minister) seemed too self-absolved in hauteur to submit the
details of the contract agreement to the scrutiny of Michael Aondoakaa commonly
regarded then as essentially a comical Attorney General.
But nothing can absolve Jonathan
of liability for the non-consummation of the contract beginning from February
2010 as acting President and three months later as the substantive following
Yar’Adua’s demise. P&ID began to complain more than a year later. By the
time the company eventually resorted to arbitration in 2012, Jonathan’s much
beloved Diezani Allison-Madukwe had of course become entrenched as almighty oil
From what we now know, she
obviously was too preoccupied with either signing Nigeria’s patrimony away to
her younger “admirers” like now fugitive Kola Aluko in sweetheart oil-swap
deals or immersing herself in the sheer effulgence of her mammoth jewelry
collection to have mustered the presence of mind to grasp the contract idea,
much less contemplate what benefits might accrue therefrom to the nation.
So, it bears restating that
national interest was least served by those who committed Nigeria into such
contract with improbable terms to begin with. That rape of Nigeria was not helped
by Jonathan’s subsequent sloppiness. Today’s sorry outcome is traceable to
But by far more atrocious is the
taste of British jurisprudence the nation was offered brusquely by the London
court last Friday. While the dereliction of Nigerian officials is regrettable,
nothing can however explain the juridical logic summoned by Justice Butcher to
enter a judgment that negates morality and mocks all the principles of natural
Note, to corner this windfall,
nothing in the convoluted narration made in British and American courts in the
last seven years suggested that P&ID engaged in much toil between 2010 and
2012 other than its officials carrying briefcases around Abuja and meeting with
Nigerian officials. It never as much as cracked any soil in Calabar to erect
the envisaged gas processing plant (as expressly stated in the contract pact),
to which Nigeria was expected to lay hundreds of kilometre of pipes.
To generations of blacks still
stuck today with the trauma inflicted by the colonial disruption of African
civilizations, Justice Butcher’s latest travesty must be a sad reminder of the
culture of plunder and predation for which imperial Britain was quite
exceptional even among fellow European exploiters in history.
Were the verdict to be enforced
to the letter, it should qualify as the single most punitively prohibitive fine
ever imposed in history on a sovereign nation relative to her fiscal strength.
The $9b sanction represents a whopping twenty percent the nation’s present
foreign reserve and a third of the current national budget.
At the arbitration court in
London in 2012, P&ID began by filing claims of $40m expenses and proceeded
to add “lost earnings” in the twenty-year tenure of the agreement based on
impossible operation benchmarks of more than ninety percent capacity
utilization and a patently unrealistic expectation that oil never fell below
$100 per barrel.
As if that was not already
shylock enough, the judge opted to play Father Xmas by granting the
petitioner’s additional prayer that compound interest be paid on the fine
imposed on Nigeria. That explains how P&ID’s preliminary claim of $40m in
2012 mushroomed exponentially to the $9b awarded last week.
No sane person will accept such
sham without a fight in the first place. Buhari could, therefore, be said to
have acted most patriotically by refusing the initial hefty $800m payout
proposed by a departing Jonathan in May 2015. In any case, with Nigeria
technically insolvent by the time PMB was taking over having lapsed into a
recession described as the worst in a generation, there practically was no way
Nigeria could have paid, assuming the new administration was even willing.
Expectedly, the government soon
mounted a vigorous counter-attack by filing appeal in the U.K and the U.S.
against the claimant. Whereas the U.S. upheld Nigeria’s objection to the
enforcement of the claim by pleading sovereignty, the British court chose to
dismiss the plea as “frivolous”.
What makes the Butcher’s verdict
all the more curious is a subsequent media expose suggesting a determined
conspiracy to raid Nigeria’s exchequer. Ahead of the judgment, a whopping
twenty-five percent stake of P&ID was snapped up in a strange deal by a hedge
fund manager known as VR Capital Group in March. Since the Friday judgment, the
sidetalk in global financial circles is that the hedge fund manager had all
along been pulling levers of influence in the U.K. and the U.S. to make Nigeria
either settle or be willing to forfeit her assets. So, it would then seem the
vultures had long been hovering overhead as the nation began to wallow in the
Now the big question: did VR
Capital Group read Justice Butcher’s mind ahead? Or, could his judgment be mere
Developments like this will only
reinforce long-held suspicion that the British jurisprudence is half of the
times tainted and can, therefore, not be trusted to avail us justice on own
accord without us standing up to the system, nor can its integrity be vouched
for to protect our interest behind our back.
For instance, a survey conducted
sometime ago by an anti-corruption group, Transparency International’s Global
Corruption Barometer, came with the damning report that one in five people
using the courts in the U.K. said they or a household member paid a bribe for
favourable outcome, even as one quarter of people in the country believe the
courts and judiciary are corrupt. But the supreme irony is that British leaders
or officials are often the first to label us as the most dubious or
“fantastically corrupt”. The enduring hypocrisy in such condescension is that
their London is renowned worldwide as one of the most receptive of money stolen
from relatively much poorer Third World countries and the ultimate haven of
shell companies used to launder dirty cash from dingy provenance across the
universe. According to Britain’s own National Crime Agency, over £100b is
laundered through U.K’s financial system annually.
So, who does not know that the
one who receives the stolen ware on the ground is as culpable as the one who
initiated the pilfering from the rafter?
A decade ago, I had a rather
funny encounter with a British “expert”. I had been invited by a Nigerian-born
promoter of a start-up to sit in during a presentation by the visiting
consultant. Because the service concern would be prospecting in the
international market beginning with Europe, it was necessary that an
high-profile office be opened in London. So, the guy’s brief was to design an
international marketing roadmap.
To me, the visiting specialist
had sounded authoritatively smooth with his power-point presentation with a
laptop inside the dimly-lit penthouse office until he veered into the media
aspect. Not knowing my media background, his proposal here was nothing short of
a crafty splitting of what ordinarily should be a single activity into assorted
briefs for the sole purpose of escalating the costs to justify about a million
British Pounds he was demanding as fee for the London outing.
Once the presentation was over
and I was invited to comment, I took out a hammer, went straight to the media
section and mercilessly knocked down the castle of fraud our friend had
meticulously erected. Perhaps out of over-excitement over the dramatic turn of
event, our host abruptly got up and asked to be excused to use the bathroom.
In-between the moments he was
away, our British friend moved over and, without shame, attempted to literally
smolder me with all the charms he could conjure, while his two other white
“accomplices” pretended to be conversing on the couch nearby. From
complimenting me with “Oh, your baritone voice is so commanding” to praising
the “fantastic embroidery” of the kaftan I wore, he let be known to me that he
was open to a “one-on-one” with me thereafter if I “cooperated” when the host
I disappointed him during the
remainder of the sesssion. Against his high expectation, our host, obviously
now seeing things differently, did the smartest thing by aborting the signing
off on the deal.
Needless to say that the trio
didn’t as much as utter a word to me while we flew back in a private jet to
Lagos that day, nor offered me a handshake while departing at the local
Till date, what I still cannot
understand is how they expected me to betray a man, my own countryman, so
trusting to have invited me to join the session in the first place. And the
lesson I learnt is never to assume a white guy will not try to fleece me given
the opportunity even while customarily affecting superior airs.
Reacting to the London judgement,
the Nigerian government has pledged to not only appeal but also vigorously
defend national interest to any length possible. It is the most sensible thing