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Treat economic saboteurs as criminals—Analyst

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By Abraham Adekunle

Amao notes that negligence or sabotage could bring the country to disrepute.

A public affairs analyst, Jerry Amao, has said that any erring Nigerian found guilty of negligence or economic sabotage, which could bring the country into disrepute should be treated as a criminal. Mr. Amao said this in an interview with reporters on October 28, 2023, in Lagos. He also recommended that, henceforth, any government official found wanting in decision-making should be held responsible for any financial breach against the Nigerian government. The consultant was reacting to Nigeria October 23 victory at a London High Court, which set aside the arbitration award of January 2017 by P&ID, a British Virgin Islands company, against Nigeria.

He added that punitive action on any untoward act against the country should be countered with force. According to him, those in positions of responsibility and decision-making must, henceforth, be held liable for any misdemeanour and answerable for their actions. He said that the tribunal identified several instances where key recommendations concerning the arbitration were not acted upon by the officers responsible, including Ministers of Justice and of Petroleum Resources. “The court has come to Nigeria rescue this time, but it is clear from the judgment that if the heads of the relevant ministries had performed their duties effectively, this case might not have arisen at all,” Mr. Amao said.

Court was critical of the GSPA and Nigeria contract obligations.

Furthermore, the consultant opined that the court was “very critical” of the Gas Supply and Purchase Agreement (GSPA) to supply gas to a P&ID project that was to be located in Calabar, Cross River State. According to him, one of the major lessons from the case is that the nation must ensure that contracts entered into by the government are prepared by competent and experienced legal and other experts. He noted that the court was very critical of the GSPA and the obligations that Nigeria assumed under the contract.

Initially, the country was triumphant in a London Court which set aside the arbitration award obtained in January 2017 by the British firm against Nigeria. Originally, the award was about $6.6 billion but rose to about $11 billion as of the date of the final judgment because of interest. The P&ID had instituted the suit against Nigeria before the arbitral tribunal, alleging a breach of agreement for the supply of gas to a project to be located in Nigeria, Cross River State. However, Nigeria was able to successfully obtain leave of the London High Court in London in September 2020 to appeal against the tribunal award, the hearing lasted eight weeks between January and March.

Present ruling is a major boost for Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy.

Nigerian lawyers went to court to overturn the award, saying P&ID had bribed senior officials to obtain the contract and corrupted the country’s lawyers to obtain confidential documents during the arbitration. P&ID denied this and accused Nigeria of institutional incompetence. Judge Robin Knowles allowed Nigeria’s challenge, writing that the case showed what some people would do for money, “driven by greed and prepared to use corruption; giving no thought to what their enrichment would mean in terms of harm for others.”

This ruling is a major boost for Africa’s biggest economy, which is saddled with mounting debt, high inflation and unemployment. Campaign group Spotlight on Corruption said that the economic prospects of an entire country have been held hostage by a tainted arbitral award that was built on bribes and lies. In 2017, an arbitration tribunal had awarded P&ID $6.6 billion for lost profits after its 20-year contract to construct and operate a gas processing plant in southern Nigeria had fallen apart.

Economic sabotage damages an economic system.

Meanwhile, Amao focused on the economic sabotage of government officials. According to Britannica, sabotage is the deliberate destruction of property or slowing down of work with the intention of damaging a business or economic system or weakening a government or nation in a time of national emergency. The word dating back to a French railway strike in 1910, purely economic sabotage also has continued to be practiced, often solely, by disgruntled employees. The expert is simply recommending that the government treat the act of officials not acting on key recommendations as a crime.

Related Link

Encyclopaedia Britannica: Website

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