$9.6 b cash award: FG triggers MLA with UK, U.S, UAE to extradite suspects who defrauded Nigeria
As the Federal Government takes steps to fish out the local and international collaborators who sealed a botched gas supply and processing agreement that has culminated in an English court awarding $9.6 billion (N3.5 trillion) against the country, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has begun manhunt for the prime suspects.
The controversial deal entered into between Nigeria’s Ministry of Petroleum Resources in January 11, 2010, and Process and Industrial Development Limited, was for the processing of 400 million metric standard cubic feet of wet gas into lean gas by the company for Nigeria in 20 years but which did not work out, leading to the challenge of Nigeria by the firm.
In order to get at the masterminds, the the anti-graft agency has begun frisking the nooks and crannies of Nigeria and beyond to bring out the suspects to face justice in line with the mandate granted the agency to probe the entire contract saga and press criminal charges against anyone found to have compromised the nation’s interest.
Already, operatives of the commission have combed addresses in Maitama District of Abuja, and Victoria Island in Lagos, which Process and International Development Limited gave as its offices in Nigeria, but they turned out to be different businesses unconnected with the firm.
The agency has also sought the assistance of the Interpol to track and arrest all the suspects whose names have been compiled by the federal government and sent to the international police organisation.
Besides that, the federal government has triggered its Mutual Legal Assistance with the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the United Arab Emirate to track the suspects in the deal who might have taken refuge in those jurisdictions, and extradite them to face trial in Nigeria.
p>In the meantime, information has also emerged that two Nigerians who have been identified as directors of P&ID Limited, have reportedly gone under to avoid arrest and interrogation by EFCC operatives.
One of the directors, whose name was given as Usman, has reportedly switched off his phone and gone under after realising that he was being tracked through his phone by operatives of the anti-graft agency.
A top source said Usman was invited to the commission in Abuja and he requested for time to appear on Wednesday last week but failed to show up on the appointed date, asking for another appointment the following day.
It was however learned that when he was called on Thursday, he had switched off his phone, thereby cutting off any form of contacts with the agency.
Another director in the controversial company, whose name was simply given as Desola, has also gone underground since the company came into the limelight in the aftermath of the $9.6 billion awards to the firm and backlash from Nigerians against the company.
In the meantime, a female director in the Ministry of Justice, who signed the deal on behalf of Nigeria, who played a key role in the controversial contract, is being trailed by operatives.
The source said the woman, whose name was given as Grace, is required by operatives to explain her vested interest in the botched deal and why she opted to sign the deal even as a middle level official ahead of senior government figures in the administration at the time.
The top source said: “We are looking for the woman, who had less than six months to retire from the Ministry of Justice but she was the one who boldly signed the contract on behalf of the ministry when they were senior officials above her.
The commission said from the information it had so far gathered it was becoming clearer that most of the documents used in sealing the deal in 2010 might have been forged including the signature of a Petroleum Minister, Rilwanu Lukman.
“There was no way a valid contract of that nature and magnitude could have been signed by a single ministry without the input of a minister,” an official said.
“There is no document of the controversial contract linking any minister under the Yar’Adua administration and we are investigating the links between those who signed the contract and the company who won the botched deal,” the official said last night.