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P&ID & Consequences Of Impunity ~ By Iliyasu Gadu

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The August 16 London judgement which awarded an engineering firm, Process and Industrial Development (P&ID), the sum of 9.6 billion dollars against Nigeria for purported breach of contract, which has been generating a storm of comments is joins others in our long history of financial scandals.

There is the long drawn Malabu case dating back to the days of General Abacha involving his Petroleum Minister Dan Etete. It involves two International Oil Companies (IOCs) Russian roulette with one of the most lucrative oil blocks in the country, in between of which are found Dan Etete himself and a slew of top officials of succeeding administrations from Abacha to Goodluck Jonathan.

Then there is the Haliburton Scandal in which again top government officials and powerful, well connected individuals in the country were found to have been involved. They allegedly collected bribes running into hundreds of millions of dollars to facilitate the award and execution of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) project.

There was also the Siemens scandal in which again several top government and party officials were indicted for collecting gratification to facilitate contracts.  And then what must be the grandfather of them so far in the annals of financial scandals in the country must be that of the 16 billion dollars power project which we are still grappling with.

As I write this, there are sure to be other under-the-radar scandals which we can only know when perhaps somebody gets short changed and decides to blow the whistle or discovered in the course of an innocuous investigation. If one where to calculate the total cost to the country of the scandals that have come to light over the years we will be talking in terms of figures that could perhaps task a calculator.

I stand to be corrected but for Nigeria to be still standing despite this, the country must be one of the richest if not the richest country on earth. Because of their regularity and the stupendous sums involved, it seems Nigerians have long become inured to shocks and outrage against such scandals.

The P&ID scandal would have passed on as one of the usual and possibly given the air brush but for one major reason; for perhaps the first time in the long litany of scandals in Nigeria, a judgement has been given abroad which not only awarded heavy monetary damages against the country but also ordered that its assets could be seized to enforce the judgement.

What all these means is that the days of mollycoddling individuals clearly known to have been serially involved in financial infractions of such magnitude has finally caught up with us. When persons are found to have been culpable in such scandals the familiar refrain we hear are: ‘’No, this person is a national icon, he cannot be subjected to ridicule’’, or ‘’I am being persecuted because of my ethnicity and religion’’.

In other cases, threats are used followed by demonstrations by kinsmen to prevent the course of Justice. Yet in other situations government contrives to shield such people.

The culture of impunity has become so entrenched that well placed Nigerians are forever thinking of the next level of financial fraud to commit against the country in the full, comfortable expectation that they will go scot free.

In the particular case of P&ID from the earliest beginnings of the contract right up to the judgement in August this year in the Arbitral in London, highly placed Nigerians were fully involved in the activities of the company. What is even galling is that Nigerians provided the legal interpretation that enabled the Arbitral to reach this landmark judgement against the country.

I have it on good authority that already a ‘’Vulture’’ company has part purchased the judgement in anticipation of either the Nigerian government settling out of court or of the judgement terms being enforced; in which case Nigeria faces a Hobson’s choice of eventually paying up one way or the other.

As it is now from the threshold of having our foreign assets at the cusp of being seized Nigeria is slowly inching towards the day when a flotilla of foreign ships will call on our ports in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Calabar to take over parts, if not the whole of Nigeria in enforcement of fraudulent financial deals entered into with connivance of some’’ untouchable’ ’Nigerians.

Yes, precedence had been set in this regard when the Royal Niger Company of George Tubman Goldie which dubiously secured the signature of our coastal potentates to establish its presence there eventually sold Nigeria to the British Government in the closing years of the nineteenth century effectively handing us over for colonial subjugation.

Ironically the present situation with P&ID bears uncanny similarity with what happened with the Royal Niger Company. A kind of de javu. Will history repeat itself?

As I watch the Attorney-General and the ministers of Finance and Information huffing and puffing from pillar to post trying to grapple with what is for all practical purposes a lost cause I could not help feeling a touch of scepticism.

There are so many well placed ‘’untouchable’’ Nigerians involved right across the spectrum of this case that the government will find difficult to haul in. This is the consequence of the impunity we have tolerated and deeply entrenched in our system.

Going forward, the only meaningful suggestion one may make is for government to as much as possible avoid doing business with foreign entities registered in offshore jurisdictions.

Offshore registered companies like P&ID are usually ‘’Shell companies’’ whose owners want to avoid scrutiny about their operations.

They are opaque and most times set up for dubious purposes which corrupt persons, entities and countries often.

If however Nigeria is compelled for reasons of exigency to do business with such companies, the due diligence must be applied.

By Iliyasu Gadu; Ilgad2009@gmail.com; 08035355706 (sms only)

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