…She signed the gas contract without FEC approval
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday told an Abuja High Court how a former director in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources was bribed to the tune of $21,000 in signing the controversial gas supply project between an Irish firm, Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
The EFCC made the revelation during the arraignment of the then Director, Legal Services, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Grace Taiga before Justice Olukayode Adeniyi of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, sitting in Apo District, Abuja.
Mrs. Taiga was arraigned for her alleged involvement in the signing of the controversial gas supply contract between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and P&ID.
The anti-graft agency arraigned her on an eight count charge bordering on criminal breach of trust and gratification among others.
She was specifically accused of signing the said agreement without obtaining the approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) as required by law.
Her arraignment came barely 24 hours after the conviction of the P&ID by the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on economic sabotage, money laundering and tax evasion amongst others.
The controversial contract signed between Nigeria and the firm in 2010 is currently generating serious concern as a threat to the nation’s economy owing to the whopping $9.6billion judgment debt against Nigeria.
In the amended charge with number CR/504/19 and filed on September 20, 2019, the commission disclosed that the defendant received a total sum of $21, 000 at various times as part of favour showed to P&ID in the signing of the said gas supply contract in 2010.
In count 4 of the charge, Mrs. Taiga was accused to have corruptly received the sum of $1,000 on September 14, 2015, from Eastwise Trading Limited through her Zenith Bank offshore account with number 5070369868 on account of alleged favour she showed to P&ID, which led to the definitive agreement entered into between the Irish firm and Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
In count 5 and 6, the defendant was accused of receiving the sum of $10, 000 each on December 18, 2017 and June 27, 2018 from Industrial Consultants International for alleged favour already showed to P&ID in signing of the contract between the firm and Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
She however pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Following her not guilty plea, counsel to the EFCC, Bala Sanga, asked that the defendant be remanded in prison custody pending the commencement of trial.
Sanga, in addition asked for an adjournment to enable the prosecution call its witnesses to prove the charges against the defendant.
However attempt by her lawyer, Ola Olanipekun SAN, to move an oral application for her bail was turned down by the court.
Similar request that the defendant be remanded in EFCC custody was rejected following objection by the EFCC counsel.
The trial judge, Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, accordingly ordered that she be remanded in Suleja prison pending the hearing and determination of the bail application.
Olanipekun had pleaded that the oral application for bail be taken on account of the failing health of Mrs. Taiga.
The defendant was said to be suffering from multiple health conditions including, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney diseases among others.
Mrs. Taiga, whom according to her lawyer, had been in the sick Bay of the EFCC was said to have collapsed on her way to court for the Friday’s arraignment.
The matter has been adjourned till September 25 for the hearing of her bail application.
P&ID had taken Nigeria to arbitration in London over an alleged breached of the gas supply and processing agreement (GSPA) signed by the ministry of petroleum resources in January 2010.
The company won the liability case in July 2015 and was awarded $6.6 billion with interests in January 2017.
Nigeria’s efforts to stop the enforcement failed at the business and property court in August but the federal government has gone on appeal.
The federal government maintains is “an orchestrated scam” against the country.
Nigeria is seeking to impeach the integrity of the arbitration award in order to get a UK court to set it aside.
Besides, a former minister of Defence, Lt.Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), has since contended that the $40 million the company claimed to have spent on the project was provided by him, claiming that the main promoter of the company, Michael Quinn, double-crossed him in the deal.