Nigeria Wins Multi-Billion-Dollar Gas Dispute Appeal

Published: 31 October 2023

Calabar NigeriaA gas-processing facility was supposed to be built in Calabar, southeastern Nigeria. (Photo: stone wu, Wikimedia, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

In a London court ruling last week, Nigeria emerged victorious in a lawsuit against an Irish-founded company, which was accused of bribing Nigerian officials to secure a gas processing contract. As a result, the company had no grounds to seek compensation for the ill-fated project.

The Commercial Courts of England and Wales overturned a previous $6.6 billion arbitration decision in favor of Process & Industrial Developments (P&ID) Limited. This amount had ballooned to $11.5 billion due to accrued interest that Nigeria was expected to pay.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu hailed the judgment as a milestone, asserting that it demonstrates that nation states will no longer be subjected to economic conspiracies between private firms and corrupt officials who collaborate to extort and burden the very nations they are sworn to safeguard.

P&ID, established in 2006 by Irish businessmen Brendan Cahill and Michael Quinn, who had prior dealings with the Nigerian government, won a contract from the Nigerian Ministry of Petroleum Resources in 2010. The contract aimed to develop a gas-processing facility in Calabar, a city in the southeastern region of Nigeria.

The agreement stipulated that Nigeria would supply gas free of charge over a 20-year period, with the processed resources to be shared between the two parties. However, Nigeria failed to deliver the promised gas because the facility was never constructed.

Subsequently, P&ID took the matter to court, alleging that Nigeria had violated the contract's terms. They won an arbitration ruling against the African nation, resulting in a decision in January 2017 that ordered Nigeria to pay P&ID $6.6 billion in damages, along with pre- and post-judgment interest at seven percent.

In response to this verdict, Nigeria requested an extension of time and relief from sanctions, which was granted in September 2020 by the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales.

The Nigerian government argued that the gas agreement was a sham, asserting that P&ID officials had obtained the contract through bribery. In contrast, P&ID refuted these claims and accused Nigeria of spreading "false allegations and wild conspiracy theories."

Earlier this year, P&ID's co-founder admitted in a London court that the company and its affiliates had engaged in financial misconduct and deception, including unexplained payments to senior officials and falsified invoices.

Judge Robin Knowles, who delivered the judgment, emphasized that "P&ID obtained the awards only after practicing the most severe abuses of the arbitral process."

"This case has also, sadly, brought together a combination of examples of what some individuals will do for money,” he said. “Driven by greed and prepared to use corruption, giving no thought to the harm their enrichment would cause others."

The justice Knowles also noted that the people of Nigeria have been let down in multiple ways by "a number of individuals in politics and administration whose duty it was to serve and protect them."