Seizure of Nigeria’s Foreign Assets: Minister Vows to Sanction Offenders

The Federal government on Thursday vowed to bring to book anyone found culpable in the agreement between Nigeria and a foreign firm, P & ID, that saw the award of $9bn judgment debt against Nigeria.

A British Court had in a judgement delivered on August 16 ordered the seizure of 20 per cent in assets, of Nigeria’s foreign reserves, amounting to $9bn (£7.4bn).

Justice Butcher of the British Commercial Court while delivering judgment in the suit filed by an Irish firm, Process and Industrial Developments Ltd (P&ID) against Nigeria gave the firm the go-ahead to seize Nigeria’s assets to the tune of $9bn in terms of judgment debt in favour of the firm.

The government in its first reaction said it would appeal the judgment and thereafter instructed its lawyers to initiate appeal proceedings against the judgment at the British court.

However, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari would not allow the matter to be swept under the carpet adding that all those involved in the agreement which according to him was not made in the interest of the nation shall be punished.

Malami made the disclosure in his remark on assumption of office on his reappointment as Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Wednesday by President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to Malami, the recent judgment is a prove that the war on corruption has to be taken to another level.

Malami said: “Sadly, in spite of the spirited and concerted efforts of the current administration to combat corrupt practices and rent seeking in all its forms, Nigerians woke up on Friday August 16, 2019 to the rudest consequences of the underhand dealings of the past administration that has resulted in the award of$9bn against the Federal Republic of Nigeria by a British court which ruled that Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) had the right to seize $9bn in Nigerian assets”.

While indicting the previous administration for the incident which may likely plunge the country further into economic woes, the AGF said, the current administration strongly view with serious concerns the underhand manner by which the negotiation, signing and formation of the contract was carried out by some vested interest in the past administration in connivance with their local and International conspirators all in a bid to inflict grave economic adversity on the country.

“As a government that has the mandate of the people, and their interest at heart, we shall not fold our arms and allow this injustice to go unpunished as all efforts, actions and steps shall be taken to bring to book all private individuals, corporate entities and government officials, home or abroad and past or present that played direct and indirect roles in the conception, negotiation, signing, formation as well as prosecution of the purported agreement”, he said.

To avoid similar financial embarrassment in future, Malami disclosed that he plans to develop a structured and systematized compliance programme for statutory entities domiciled in the office of the Solicitor General. The aim is to ensure that, “all relevant laws are not breached thereby reducing, if not totally eliminating potential liability by the Federal government that may arise from acts of commission or ommission of these entities.”

He said: “In actualizing this, we shall be creating a well resourced functional, efficient and responsive Desk in the Solicitors Department where contracts, memoranda of understanding and agreement containing financial thresholds proposed to be entered into by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the FGN shall undergo a technical multi layered legal analysis, review and vetting before execution.

“The aim is to reduce the incidence of avoidable contractual obligations and commitments to which the FGN is exposed by some of the MDAs which have attracted to the FGN debts running into billions.”

Unveiling further his roadmap for the justice sector, Malami disclosed that apart from strengthening the instrumentality of the nation’s legal system to fight corruption, the administration would beam its searchlight on Financial Institutions (FIs) and Non-Designated Financial Institutions (DNFIs) in order to ensure that they pay dearly for their alleged dastardly role in encouraging and deepening corruption in the country.

“From arms procurement fraud, INEC bribery case to Diezani case and several others, quantitative data available to the Federal government abundantly shows that financial institutions are directly involved in most of the major corruption cases investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) from 2015 till date”, he disclosed.

Still on financial matters, the Minister said he would do everything possible to ensure Nigeria becomes a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) within the shortest possible time. “We have made a successful effort to reverse Nigeria’s suspension, and it is one of my key plans to ensure that Nigeria passes all the relevant anti corruption legislations capable of enhancing the fight against corruption”, he said.

To achieve set targets, the Minister, who acknowledged the daunting task before him and the ministry, said plans are already on to develop and promote appropriate executive bills that are capable of combating systemic and grand corruption that have ravaged and still ravaging the nation, adding that he would develop a culture of cohesive synergy between the three arms of government, the executive, legislature and judiciary.

According to him the collaboration is aimed at establishing a workable constitutional amendment towards ensuring better efficiency of the Nigerian Judiciary.

Malami while thanking staff of the ministry and agencies under him for supporting his vision for the justice sector during his first term promised to make their welfare a priority and leave a lasting legacy in the sector at the end of his second tenure.

Author: News Editor

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