$9.6bn judgment: Court sends ex-Petroleum Ministry’s senior official to prison

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A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Apo, Abuja, has ordered that a former Director, Legal Services of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Grace Taiga, be remanded in Suleja Prison, in Niger State.

Mrs. Taiga, who was arraigned before the court yesterday on an eight-count charge of bribery, among others, is to remain in prison until September 25, 2019 when her bail application would be heard.

Upon her arraignment yesterday, Mrs. Taiga pleaded not guilty to the charge in which she was, among others, accused of  receiving bribe, through her offshore bank account in signing the Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA) between P&ID Limited and the Federal Government of Nigeria, through the Petroleum Resources Ministry on January 11, 2019, and over which an arbitration panel, which sat in London awarded about $9.6billion damages against Nigeria.

After she pleaded to the charge, filed and being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), her lawyer, Ola Olanipekun (SAN), prayed the court to allow his client to be remanded in the custody of EFCC pending the determination of her bail application, on the grounds that she was suffering from hypertension and diabetes.

Lead prosecuting lawyer, Bala Sanga, however, objected to Olanipelun’s  request and argued that the proper place to remand a defendant, whose plea had been taken,  is prison custody.

In a ruling, Justice Olukayode Adeniyi upheld Sanga’s argument and ordered that the defendant be remanded in Suleja Prison.

Justice Adeniyi directed that the defendant be accorded due medical treatment while she is in custody, pending the hearing and determination of her bail application.

The judge subsequently scheduled September 25 for the hearing of her bail application.

The EFCC also accused Mrs. Taiga of violating various laws by entering into the GSPA without a prior approval by the Federal Executive Council and a certificate of no-objection to the contract from the Bureau of Public Enterprise.

The charge is in relation to the  controversial Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA), in respect of which a British court upheld P&ID claim to the  $9.6bn damages awarded against Nigeria by an arbitration tribunal

The EFCC alleged that Mrs. Taiga  signed as Nigeria’s witness to the GSPA, while the then minister who was the head of the ministry, Rilwan Lukman (now late), signed as Nigeria’s representative.

The charge reads in part:

*That you Process and Industrial Developments Limited being a company incorporated in the British Virgin Island (convicted), Michael Quinn (deceased), Brendan Cahill (at large), Nel Hitchcock (deceased) and Grace Taiga on or about the 11th January, 2010 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court with intent to defraud, made a false statement in paragraph 8(g) of the Gas Supply and Processing Agreement (GSPA) to wit: the parties are aware that the 24inch Adanga pipeline presently under construction from the Addax operated OML 123 directly to Calabar and due for completion in 2010 which part of the said agreement you knew to be false and you thereby committed an n e contrary to section 362 (a) of the Penal Code Code Law and punishable under Section 364 of the same law.

*That you, Grace Taiga and Dr. Rilwan Lukman  (deceased) being public officers on or about the 11lh January, 2010 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court signed a contract titled Gas Supply and Processing Agreement between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Process and Industrial Development Limited, a corporation organised and existing under the laws of the British Virgin Island, without any cash backing and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 22(4) of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences act, 2000.

*That you, Grace Taiga and Dr. Rilwan Lukman  (deceased) being public officers on or about the 11th January, 2010 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court signed a contract titled Gas Supply and Processing Agreement between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Process and Industrial Development Limited, a corporation organized and existing under the laws of the British Virgin Island without obtaining the requisite statutory approvals of the Federal Executive Council pursuant to section 2 (1) and (2) of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (Establishment, ETC),2005 and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 22(4) of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences act, 2000.

*That you, Grace Taiga (former Director of Legal Services in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources) on or about the 14th of September, 2015 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this honourable court corruptly received the sum of $1,000 (one thousand United States Dollars) from Eastwise Trading Limited through the Zenith Bank offshore Account No. 5070369868 operated by you on account of the favour you showed to Process and Industrial Development Limited, which led to the definitive agreement entered into between the company incorporated in the British Virgin Island and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in 2010 and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 8(1) (a) of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences act, 2000.

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