Senate summons Malami, ministry officials, others over $9.6b judgment debt
• Backs Buhari’s order to Osinbajo over supervision of agencies
The Senate yesterday passed a resolution inviting the Attorney general of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to brief it on details of the $9.6 billion P&ID judgment debt against Nigeria.Also to appear before the upper legislative chamber’s committees on Judiciary and Human Rights Matters, Petroleum Upstream and Gas Resources and Power over the issue are officials of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and professional arbitrators on behalf of the Federal Government.
Adopting a motion brought before it under matters of urgent national importance by Opeyemi Bamidele (APC: Ekiti), the red chamber however refused to debate the matter.
The United Kingdom’s Business & Property Courts had last month granted P&ID’s request to enforce a 2013 award against Nigeria by a three-member arbitration tribunal.The tribunal relied on the Arbitration Act 1996 (England and Wales) and the Nigerian Arbitration and Conciliation Act 2004.
President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, said the invitees are to provide details of the 2010 contract, the reasons for the default, handling of resultant negotiations, court proceedings and steps being taken to resolve the issue.He nevertheless commended government for the “appropriate response” to the ruling.
Bamidele had noted that “Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora have become apprehensive while several committees of the Senate have over the last few weeks received several petitions and other direct and circumstantial information on the ongoing legal tussle involving the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and by extension the Federal Government of Nigeria and P&ID.”
He had also expressed concern that the UK court’s decision converted the subsequent arbitrary award into a domestic judgment against the Federal Government, creating a situation where Nigeria’s asset around the world, particularly in the United Kingdom and the United States risk being taken over by the Irish firm.
Besides, the upper chamber has distanced itself from the ‘ordeal’ of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo following the recent pronouncement of President Muhammadu Buhari directing him to, henceforth, seek presidential approvals for agencies under his supervision.
The Senate committee chairman on information, Dayo Adeyeye, while briefing newsmen yesterday after plenary, stated the president had not committed any constitutional breach by the directive, as he had the powers to assign and reassign roles to members of the executive arm of government.
“Get it right, the president has the prerogative to assign duties to any of those who work with him in the executive. “The president has the powers as the chief executive of the country to assign any role to any person in Nigeria,” he stated.