*Grace Taiga *
Umar Babangida, an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s prosecution witness (PW1), on Thursday, linked former Director of Legal, Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Grace Taiga’s link in the alleged 9.6 billion dollars Process and Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) scandal.
Babangida, who is the Head, Special Investigation Unit on P&ID in EFCC, told Justice Obiora Egwuatu of a Federal High Court, Abuja, while being led in evidence by counsel to the anti-corruption agency, Abba Mohammed.
He said besides that Taiga witnessed and participated in all the agreements entered into by the Petroleum Ministry with the gas company, the ex-director issued memos and signed correspondence on the ministry’s behalf.
“From the documents we received from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, which include minutes of meetings, internal memos and other correspondence, we discovered that the defendant (Taiga) participated in meetings, issued memos and signed the correspondence on behalf of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources.
“This dated before the signing of the GSPA (Gas Supply Processing Agreement) and after the signing of GSPA.
“That confirms to the investigating team her role during and after the GSPA,” he said.He said on July 22, 2009, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the ministry and P&ID.
Babangida, who said that the company was incorporated in Nigeria by Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), revealed that the then Minister of Petroleum Resources, Late Dr Rilwan Lukman, signed on behalf of the ministry and was witnessed by Taiga.
According to him, Late Michael Quinn signed on behalf of Process and Industrial Development Nigeria Limited and was witnessed by Mohammed Kuchazi.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Kuchazi, a Director of Commercial with P&ID, is a Nigerian.
The witness said that his team also discovered that on Jan. 11, 2010, the gas supply and processing agreement was signed between the ministry and P&ID.
“On further review of GSPA, we discovered that the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, was to provide P&ID with 150 million standard cubic feet per day of wet gas from OML123 operated by Addas Petroleum Ltd under the first phase.
“And in the second phase, the Ministry of Petroleum Resources on behalf of the Federal Government, was to provide 250 million standard cubic feet per day of wet gas to the company, P&ID Limited.
“The company was to process the wet gas into lean gas for power generation and to supply 80 per cent of the processed gas back to the Federal Government for power generation.“ The residue and by-product of the processing was to be utilise by P&ID either to sell in the local market or international market.
“The product is at no cost to the Federal Government and was to last for 20 years from the date of signing the GSPA,” he said. He said the company was to establish the gas processing facility on a site allocated to it by Cross River government.
The PW1 said in August 2012, after the signing of the GSPA, the P&ID filed a notice of arbitration against the Ministry of Petroleum Resources alleging that the Federal Government breached the agreement.
According to him, the arbitration took place in London which resulted in a claim of 9.6 billion dollars against the Federal Government at an annual interest of 7 per cent until when payment is made to the company.
“In the course of the investigation, the then minister, Dr Rilwan Lukman, had already passed on and l Quinn is also deceased at the time of this investigation,” he said.
Babangida said Taiga was invited to make clarification and shed more light on circumstances surrounding the gas supply processing agreement.
He said she reported and was shown the titled copy of GSPA and memorandum of understanding.
“She identified the two documents and informed the investigating team that two documents were signed when she was director, legal at the ministry.
“She Informed the team that her schedule of duties as director legal, include giving legal advice to the ministry, drafting documents, which include agreements and reports and representing the ministry in legal matters in court and carrying out any other matters assigned to her by honourable minister of Petroleum Resources.
“She also informed the team that she was posted to Ministry of Petroleum Resources from Ministry of Justice and she was representing the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) in that capacity.
“She also informed the team that the draft agreement of GSPA was forwarded to the office of the AGF for vetting, approval and further directives.
The witness said Taiga informed that Ministry of Justice could confirm her statement.He said based on this, the team wrote to Ministry of Justice to confirm the receipt of the draft agreement and provide evidence of transmission, vetting and approval.
“We received a response from ministry of justice signed by solicitor general of the federation and permanent secretary of the Ministry of Justice that after careful and thorough search of their records and archive, there was no evidence of receipt of draft agreement from the Ministry of Justice,” he said.
He told the court that the team also received a response from the Petroleum Ministry that there was no budgetary provision, no operating license issued to P&ID to engage in gas activities, no bidding record and no ministerial tender board set up for the project.
However, Babangida said that a technical committee to review the proposal of the investors (P&ID) was set up by the former Petroleum minister and that the committee reported directly to him, just as Taiga reported directly to the minister.
He said members of the technical team include Engineer Taofiq Tijani, who was a senior technical assistance to the minister; Dr M. M. Ibrahim, Mr Austin Olorunnisola, Mr Anthony Agbojo, among others.
According to him, Tijani died early last year. Babangida said that his team wrote to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, requesting for approval of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for the project and the GSPA.
“We received response from the office of the SGF that the gas supply and processing agreement was not submitted for FEC approval.
“In the course of further review of GSPA, we discover that the MOU was signed with a Nigerian company and the GSPA was signed with a foreign company.
“We now have P&ID Process and Industrial Nigeria Limited and Process and Industrial Development Ltd registered in English virgin Island,” he said.
He said the team also wrote to CAC to avail them “the incorporation records of Process and Industrial Development Nig Ltd and we discovered from the incorporation records that one barrister Adamu Usman Mohammed is a director with 90 per cent equity.
“We invited him and he denied knowledge of the GSPA and also denied the existence of the foreign company, Process and Industrial Development Ltd.”(NAN)