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$9.6b Fine: FG Urged To Punish Former CJN Belgore

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Former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Alfa Belgore, should face sanctions for his alleged role in the $9.6bn fine imposed on Nigeria by a London court, Nigerian leading anti-corruption group, HEDA, has said.

Justice Belgore was said to have been a key witness to Process and Industrial Development (PID), a private firm that sued Nigeria over botched gas contract leading to the $9.6bn judgement debt.

Foremost anti-corruption group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) said in a petition dated September 16 and addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari that the former CJN flouted the Nigerian constitution by providing the legal springboard for the imposition of fines that almost equal 20 percent of Nigerian foreign reserves.

A copy of the petition was also sent to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Mallami.

In a statement signed by HEDA’ s Chairman Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, the group said the former CJN should be prosecuted immediately by the Code of Conduct Bureau before the Code of Conduct Tribunal for violating
Section 5 of the Constitution.

HEDA said by providing supporting evidence for P&ID and proffering the expert advice for the Irish company, the former CJN violated the provisions of the Constitution and also put asunder Nigeria’s strategic national interests. It urged the Federal Government to probe the incidence to establish whether the CJN’ s action was for personal gains.

“It can be concluded, without equivocation, that drafters of the Constitution understands weight of the offices occupied by the prohibited officers and the potential implication of actions such as taken by the former CJN”

HEDA said there was a clear case of conflict of interest which violates the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.

It refers to Section 1 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers which states that a public officer shall not put his or her person in a position where personal interest conflicts with his duties and responsibilities.

It noted that Section 5 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers of the 1999 Constitution prohibits former Presidents, Vice Presidents, Chief Justices of Nigeria, governors and deputy governors from working
for the interests of foreign companies or enterprises.

Chief Justice holds strategic positions in Nigeria. He is a member of the National Council of State Chairman of the Nigerian National Honours Award Committee and Central Working Group Vision 20.20.20.

Reports claimed Justice Belgore testified as an expert witness before the arbitration tribunal in the UK’s Business & Property Courts, for the Irish firm, P&ID.

It was reported that as a result of his expert advice, in which he laid claims to painstaking analysis of the Nigeria’s laws and exploiting its shortcomings, cited case laws for the benefit of the firm which resulted
in a humongous arbitral award of $9.6 billion (N3.2 trillion) against Nigeria.

The genesis of the award commenced from the accusation laid against the Nigeria Government by P&ID for breach of a 2010 Gas Contract agreement.

It was on his status as a former CJN that the UK tribunal accepted Mr. Belgore’s opinion with two members of the Tribunal – Lord Hoffman and Sir Anthony Evans – ruling that the British Virgin Island firm is
entitled to $6.6billion in damages plus interest until the amount is paid.

Also, a third member, Nigeria’s former Attorney General, Chief Bayo Ojo, was said to have given a dissenting opinion, saying P&ID should be paid not more than $250 million.

In August 2019, the UK’s Business & Property Courts granted P&ID’s request to enforce the 2013 award against Nigeria by the three-member arbitration tribunal.

The tribunal relied on the Arbitration Act 1996 (England and Wales) and the Nigerian Arbitration and Conciliation Act 2004.

If the award is executed, according to HEDA, the consequences will be unpleasant for every Nigerian.

It further stated that “as a result of this breach, the former CJN should be removed with immediate effect as Chairman of the National Merit Honour Award Committee. He should be stripped of his National
Honour of Grand Commander of the Niger.”

HEDA said the former CJN, by this act, “is undeserving of the National Honour currently held, Grand Commander of the Niger, as a holder of this title ought to hold as utmost priority the nation’s interest, as his
action shoulders disrespect for the country.”

The act committed, according to HEDA, is grave and amounts to a breach of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, thereby violating the provisions of the Constitution.

Suraju said “As a former CJN, he is a member of the Nigerian Council of State, which is chaired by the incumbent President and is made up of past Presidents and Head of States of the country, former Chief
Justices, President of the Senate, Speaker of House of Representatives, all governors of the 36 states of the country, the Minister of Justice and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.”.

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