By Uche Mbah
A recent judgement by a United States indicted Nigeria by a $6.59 billion arbitral award, plus $2.30 billion interest accruable with time. This translated to a total of N2.7 trillion at the Central Bank of Nigeria’s rate of N306 to one U.S Dollar. In a judgement given in a case that spanned the regime of former president Goodluck Jonathan and the Buhari administration, the case was finally concluded in a U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. recently.
According to Premium Times, an online portal, the country would have paid less than 10 per cent of the $8.9 billion award if the Muhammadu Buhari administration had acted in line with the recommendation passed to it by the preceding Goodluck Jonathan regime.
Process & Industrial Development Limited (P&ID), an American engineering firm, had been fighting Nigeria for breach of contract. Government instituted a negotiation team constituted by President Jonathan which successfully negotiated an out-of-tribunal settlement with the company, P&ID and got the company to accept an $850 million payment, about 9.6 per cent of the $8.9billion award.
When Buhari took over, he ignored that settlement and rather asked its lawyers to return to the tribunal to further contest the engineering firm’s claims.
The tribunal then ruled against Nigeria, awarding $6.6 billion in favor of the British Virgin Islands firm.
The refusal to settle the matter for over five years attracted additional $2.3billion in accumulated interest at seven per cent per annum.
Jonathan had pulled through the negotiation at the sunset of his regime, and left the execution of the payment to his successor who, instead of following through, decided to start the case afresh, ignoring the former brokered deal.
“President Jonathan reasoned that since his administration was already a few days away from its exit on May 29, 2015, it was proper not to approve the payment of $850 million to avoid unnecessary suspicion,” Premium Times quoted an anonymous official as saying.