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P&ID bribed govt officials to secure contract, FG tells UK court

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British firm, the Process and Industrial Developments bribed government officials to secure its 20-year gas supply purchasing agreement, Nigeria’s legal representative, Mark Howard, has told a UK court.

Howard told the magistrate, Ross Cranston, that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has discovered payments to people involved in the project and their family members including Vera Taiga, whose mother, Grace Taiga, was a director in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources at the time the deal was sealed.

Howard said one payment of $4,969.50 was made on December 30, 2009, and another $5,000 was paid to her on January 31, 2012, adding that P&ID claimed those payments were for health expenses.

“If Grace Taiga was in financial strain and she asked for the money from P&ID at this critical point and P&ID paid her in secret at precisely the time the GSPA was being put forward. That, in anybody’s language, is a bribe,” he explained during a virtual court hearing.

“The nature of a bribe is not affected by what the bribee intends to spend the money on, the point is it is corrupt and improper to make payments to a government official when you are in the process of negotiating a contract with the government.”

The lawyer said Taiga seemed to have a pattern of receiving money from companies seeking government contract as she also received money from two companies bidding for gas infrastructure projects.

Grace Taiga is awaiting trial to determine her role in the case.

In response to P&ID’s argument that Nigeria missed the 28-day appeal deadline, Howard said Nigeria only uncovered information about the deal in late 2019.

“Any legal team had to make a judgement call about whether there was enough evidence to argue it was a case of fraud,” he said.

Howard also told the court about how Taofiq Tijani, who chaired the government technical committee that reviewed the gas plant contract, had admitted to receiving $50,000 in cash from Neil Hitchcock, a deceased P&ID project director.

“The first payment was cash, the rest were through the banking system. The question is what was the essence of these payments? Mr Tijani said he had significant pressure to put the project through,” he told the judge.

“The payments we are referring to is a cash payment to Mr Tijani. These were disguised payments to cover up their tracks. October 19, £30,000, April 14, naira equivalent of €15,000 and same date €26,400 pounds and €13,317. These are all payments in connection with the project, which is described on page 34.

“My Lord, you look at these payments and look at Mr Tijani concerning these payments and you see that these payments cannot be accounted for. We are putting on one side the $50,000 that Mr Tijani said he was paid in cash.”

Howard argued that the contract was illegal for the onset as P&ID, a company that claimed to handle large-scale oil and gas projects, spent millions of dollars in cash which is illegal under Nigeria’s money-laundering laws.

He said the company knew that it could not perform the project and thus, never, paid for the land where the project would have been sited.

“P&ID knew it could not perform such a huge contract, got the contract awarded through bribes and it knew it would extract money from Nigeria through arbitration or a settlement,” he said.

The hearing continues on Tuesday and the outcome will determine if Nigeria can continue its appeal to overturn the judgment against it.

P&ID reportedly entered a gas supply and processing agreement with Nigeria in 2010. Claiming Nigeria breached the terms of the contract, it took a legal recourse and secured an arbitral award against the country, which has accumulated to $9.6 billion.

Nigeria has been making moves to overturn the judgment and has gotten court clearance to request documents from a P&ID stakeholder and review bank statements of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Diezani Alison-Madueke and Rilwanu Lukman, former ministers of petroleum.

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NIGERIA

FCT High Court judge, Okeke, is dead

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The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory on Tuesday lost one of its judges, Justice Jude Okeke.

Justice Okeke, aged 64, died at the National Hospital in Abuja.

Some court officials, who asked not to be named because they had no authorization to speak on it, said the deceased had complained of chest pain some days ago after which his condition deteriorated.

The spokesperson for the National Hospital, Dr. Tayo Haastrup, confirmed to our correspondent that Justice Okeke died on Tuesday.

Justice Okeke, who until his demise occupied the ninth position in the hierarchy of the FCT High Court judges, handled the corruption case instituted against a retired judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, along with his wife, Olubolade, and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Joe Agi.

Justice Okeke, in a ruling on April 5, 2017, upheld the defendants’ no-case submissions and dismissed the charges.

On February 28, 2018, the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal affirmed the dismissal of the case which was instituted by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, as speculative.

Justice Okeke hails from Idemili North Local Government Area of Onitsha, Anambra State.

He was called to Bar in 1985 and completed his National Youth Service the following year.

He was in active private practice of Law until he was appointed as a Judge in the FCT High Court in 2007.

He is married with children.

His death reduces the number of FCT High Court judges from 34 to 33.

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NIGERIA

FG raises hate speech fine from N500,000 to N5m

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The Federal Government on Tuesday raised the fine for hate speech from N500,000 to 5 million naira.

The government also mandated broadcast stations to devote airtime for public education on emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, made this known in Lagos on Tuesday while unveiling the Reviewed Broadcasting Code.

This was contained in a statement by the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, titled, ‘Remarks By The Hon. Minister Of Information And Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, At The Unveiling Of The Reviewed Broadcasting Code In Lagos On Tuesday, Aug. 4th, 2020’.

According to the statement made available on the verified social media platforms of the ministry, Mohammed said the amendments were necessitated by a Presidential directive in the wake of the 2019 general elections for an inquiry into the regulatory role of the National Broadcasting Commission as well as the conduct of the various broadcast stations before, during and after elections.

The minister noted that the recommendations were approved by the President, Major General Mohammed Buhari (retd.), to reposition the NBC to better perform its regulatory role in the areas of political broadcasting, local content, coverage of emergencies, advertising, and anti-competitive behaviour.

Mohammed, who explained that section 2h of the NBC Act empowers the commission to establish and disseminate a National Broadcasting Code, said, “There are many desirable provisions in the new Broadcasting Code:

“The provisions on Exclusivity and Monopoly will boost local content and local industry due to laws prohibiting exclusive use of rights by broadcasters who intend to create monopolies and hold the entire market to themselves. It will encourage Open Access to premium content.

“The law prohibiting backlog of advertising debts will definitely promote sustainability for the station owners and producers of content.

“The law on the registration of Web Broadcasting grants the country the opportunity to regulate negative foreign broadcasts that can harm us as a nation. Such harms could be in the area of security, protection for minors, protection of human dignity, economic fraud, privacy etc.

“The provision on the responsibility of broadcast stations to devote airtime to national emergencies mandates terrestrial and Pay TV channels to make their services available to Nigerians at times of national emergencies – like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – for their education and enlightenment.

“The provision raising the fine for hate speech from 500,000 Naira to 5 million Naira.”

He added, “The Broadcasting Code is not a static document. As we often say, broadcasting is dynamic. Therefore, even the 6th Edition of the Code shall be reviewed at the appropriate time. But, as it currently stands, the 6th edition and the amendments, which we are unveiling today, remain the regulations for broadcasting in Nigeria.

“For those who still have misgivings about the amendment to the 6th Edition of the Code, we expect you to meet with the regulator and present your views. As I said, there are opportunities for constant review of the Code, but please note that this latest amendment is signed, sealed, and delivered, and we are committed to making it work for the good of the country.”

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NIGERIA

Buhari orders rejig of security operational strategies

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President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the rejig of operational strategies of the nation’s security network to effectively counter the security situation across the country.

The National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Babagana Monguno (Rtd.), disclosed this to State House Correspondents on Tuesday after the National Security Council meeting held at the State House.

He also revealed that the administration was working on a solution to the security crisis in some parts of the country, saying that the Minister of Defense, Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi (Rtd), was “working on something” to give effect to President Buhari’s earlier marching orders to service chiefs.

The NSA also disclosed that the council noted that the proliferation of drugs is driving insecurity in the country.

Monguno said the manner of killings of their victims can only mean one thing and that is, the bandits, kidnappers, and terrorists are out of their minds.

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