Former petroleum ministry senior civil servant jailed for her role in P&ID $9.6bn fine scandal

FORMER director of legal services in the ministry of petroleum resources Grace Taiga has been remanded in prison by a Federal Capital Territory high court over her role in the Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) $9.6bn fine scandal.

Under the terms of a contract signed on January 11, 2010 Nigeria entered into an agreement to supply P&ID 400 MMScuFD of wet gas for a period of 20 years. While the company would make available 85% of the lean gas proceeds from the process, it was to be compensated by being offered by-products such as butane and sell on the international market.

However, Nigerian failed to deliver on its side of the bargain and on August 22, 2012, the British firm filed for arbitration, writing to the federal government on March 20, 2013, accusing it of repudiating the contract it entered into. The contract that has simply become known as the GSPA is the Gas Supply Processing Agreement, under which P&ID was to process the wet gas into lean gas suitable for firing gas-powered electricity generation plants.

Nigeria alleged that the agreement was on various grounds invalid or subsequently frustrated, varied or discharged by force majeure. However, P&ID challenged this and a panel of arbitration ruled that Nigeria was liable for the failure of the contract and should pay the British firm a sum of $6.597bn as the profit that the company would have made in the 20 years tenure of the contract.

In addition, the panel also ruled that the company should be paid 7% interest until the award was settled. This is what has snowballed into $9.6bn judgment debt as the firm had recently sought and secured from a British high court the conversion of the arbitration decision into a legal judgment.

As the case rumbles on, the Apo Division of the high court of the FCT in Abuja, remanded Mrs Taiga in prison. Justice Olukayode Adeniyi ordered that the defendant be remanded at the Suleja Prison in Niger State.

This came after the defendant pleaded not guilty to the eight counts preferred against her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). In court, the prosecution accused Mrs Taiga of receiving bribes through her offshore bank account, alongside the then petroleum minister, the late Rilwan Lukman.

After sentencing her, the judge subsequently fixed September 25 for the hearing of her bail application. Mrs Taiga was also accused of violating various laws by entering into the GSPA without prior approval by the Federal Executive Council and a certificate of no objection to the contract from the Bureau of Public Enterprise.

‎She pleaded not guilty to the charges and her lawyer, Ola Olanipekun, who said his client was suffering from hypertension and diabetes, pleaded with the court to allow her to be remanded in the custody of the EFCC. However, the EFCC’s lawyer, Bala Sanga, opposed the request, insisting that her proper place of custody after arraignment was the prison.

Justice Adeniyi agreed with the prosecuting counsel and ordered her remand in prison. He, however, added that she should be accorded proper medical treatment in custody pending the hearing and determination of her bail application.