Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari warned on Tuesday that Nigeria would not tolerate attempts by persons and organizations he called international criminals to defraud the country.
He also stressed that his administration would sustain its anti-corruption fight. Buhari cited the Federal Government’s prosecution of Process and Industrial Development over the controversial $9.6bn judgment it obtained from a London court against Nigeria as an example of “a scam.”
He was speaking at the General Debate of the ongoing 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Buhari told the session that the world was facing various crises, including financial crimes, and called for collective efforts by all countries to address the problems.
He stated, “Organised criminal networks, often acting with impunity across international borders presents new challenges where only collective actions can deliver genuine results.
“This is true in the battle against violent extremism, against trafficking in people and drugs and against corruption and money laundering.
“The present Nigerian government is facing the challenges of corruption head-on. We are giving notice to international criminal groups by the vigorous prosecution of the P&ID scam attempting to cheat Nigeria of billions of dollars.”
The President’s speech also touched on social media, blaming them for promoting crimes and mass killings.
He also held technology companies responsible for helping social media to fuel crises.
He noted, “They cannot be allowed to continue to facilitate the spread of religious, racist, xenophobic and false messages capable of inciting whole communities against each other, leading to loss of many lives. This could tear some countries apart.”
Buhari also spoke on the effects of poverty, saying, “ No threat is more potent than poverty and exclusion”, adding that a link existed between poverty and criminality.
He stated, “They are the foul source from which common criminality, insurgency, cross-border crimes, human trafficking and its terrible consequences draw their inspiration.”
The President told the session that his administration was doing much to tackle poverty as exemplified by its social investment programs for the vulnerable people.
Making a general case for Africa, Buhari sought the support of the West to develop the continent. He spoke further, “A developed Africa will not be antagonistic to industrialized countries but will become friends and partners in prosperity, security and development. Prosperous Africa will mean greater prosperity for the rest of the world. A poor Africa will be a drag on the rest of the world. Is this what the international community wants?
“A coordinated multi-lateral effort should be set in motion to utilise and maximize the use of the enormous resources on the African continent for the benefit of all nations. Investing partners will be able to recoup their investments manifold over time.
“Current attempts to help develop Africa by industrial countries are un-coordinated and plainly incremental. We have the skills, the manpower and the natural resources, but in many instances, we lack the capital – hence my plea for industrial countries to take a long-term view of Africa, come and partner us to develop the continent for the benefit of all.”
Buhari also devoted some time to the Palestinian situation, saying that Palestinians had a right to live on their own land.
He said, “On the international scene, Mr President, the United Nations has new opportunities to take the lead on issues that continue to cloud the prospects for international peace and prosperity, namely;
“The rights of the Palestinian people to have their own country free of occupation. Mr President, the international community has spoken from Resolution 242 of 1967 to the present day on the rights of the Palestinian people to have and live in peace in their own land…”
The President also informed the session on Nigeria’s plans to combat climate change.
He added, “On climate change, Nigeria stands resolutely with the international community in observing agreed carbon emission targets which I signed in 2015.
“We have since issued two sovereign Green Bonds and have added an additional 1 million hectares of forested land taking our total forest coverage to 6.7 percent through collective national effort.”
He called for the expansion of the membership of the UN Security Council to include more nations.
“As we advocate and strive for inclusion within our societies, we must also ensure inclusion prevails in our collective action as members of the International Community. That is why we support the expansion of the Security Council to reflect the diversity and dynamics of the 21st Century”, he said.
On Tuesday, seven lawyers met with the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, and other top government officials in London where they were engaging international lawyers, who are part of the Federal Government’s legal team.
According to a document detailing the names of members of the legal team, other lawyers from Nigeria are Anne Akwiwu from the Ministry of Justice; a director from the Central Bank of Nigeria, S.K Salam-Alada; Timi Balogun; and Bradley Doline.
Others are a director in the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Bala Tsanga; a special counsel and prosecutor with the commission, Rotimi Oyedepo; and Senior State Counsel, Ministry of Justice, Oyin Koleosho.
While giving updates to journalists on Tuesday, Malami said the country’s lawyers were busy fling Nigeria’s case at the commercial court.
He said members of the government delegation were still consulting and all hands were on the deck.
The minister said, “We are still consulting. We are with Bloomberg now on the media sensitization, while our lawyers are busy filing papers at the commercial court.
“We have also met with African Report earlier in the day. All hands are on the deck.”
Our correspondent learnt that the government team on Tuesday continued their engagements with international lawyers and foreign media organizations.
The aim of the engagements with the media, according to Malami, is to ensure that issues relating to the award are put in proper perspectives.
Other government officials who are with Malami in the delegation are the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed; Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu; Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele; and the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, among others.
Meanwhile, the Senate on Tuesday, summoned the attorney general to brief it on the details of the contracts signed between the Federal Government and the P&ID.
This was a sequel to a motion moved by the Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Opeyemi Bamidele, at plenary.
The Senate unanimously agreed that all parties to the agreement which included the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation should also appear alongside the attorney -general.
Bamidele said his motion was on the need to invite Malami and other relevant stakeholders to brief relevant committees of the Senate on the award of $9.6bn against the Federal Government.
He said, “The Senate notes with concern that Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora have become apprehensive.
“Several committees of the Senate have over the last few weeks, received several petitions and other direct and circumstantial information on the ongoing legal imbroglio.
“The legal battle involves the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and by extension, the Federal Government of Nigeria and the United Kingdom firm known as Process and Industrial Development Limited hereinafter referred to as the P&ID.
“Aware that a commercial court in the United Kingdom in the suit referred to has ruled that the Federal Government must pay the British firm, Process and Industrial Development Limited, a sum of $9.6bn or have its assets to the tune of that amount forfeited.
“The Senate is further aware that in January 2010 the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, acting on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria executed a gas supply processing agreement with P&ID.
“Nigeria was to supply zero cost natural gas to P&ID through a pipeline to be constructed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to P&ID Processing facility.
“The Senate further notes that the terms of the TSPA had a tenor of 20 years, from the date of the first supply of wet gas.
“The P&ID had an obligation to process the wet gas and deliver the derivative to the Federal Government free of charge for power generation while taking any other residual liquid itself at no cost.
“The Senate further notes that based on the facts of the case, P&ID served a notice of arbitration on the Federal Government in 2012 on the grounds that Nigeria repudiated its obligation under the terms of the TSPA by defaulting to make wet gas available to it.”
Bamidele raised the alarm that the UK court’s decision converted the subsequent arbitrary award into a domestic judgement against the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He said the development had created a situation where Nigeria’s assets around the world, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States of America risked being taken over by P&ID orbits agents.
The damages awarded to the P&ID according to Bamidele, are manifestly excessive, exorbitant, punitive and a big threat to the economic well-being and security of Nigeria.
He said, “The Senate is deeply concerned that the issues arising from the default aforesaid as well as the consequential arbitration, court proceedings and the ensuing award against Nigeria have thus far been concealed from the Senate and the entire National Assembly.”