By Nnanke Harry Willie
Monday, October 23, 2023, was a great day for Nigeria. It was the day Nigeria won perhaps one of the biggest fights against the hydra-headed monster of corruption. It is however instructive that yet again, Nigeria obtained this victory from a jurisdiction outside the country, specifically, a UK court.
A UK Judge dismissed the $6.6billion arbitrary judgment against Nigeria of which interests ballooned to $11.5billion, won by briefcase company Process & Industry Development (P&ID) Ltd, over a purported 2010 deal to develop a gas processing plant.
The sweet, important victory came after Nigeria’s resolve to fight, to the last man, against an attempted heist foisted on the country by a shadowy group of foreign and Nigerian fraudsters from within and outside the country to plunder and loot humongous amounts from the country’s treasury in the most brazen manner.
Judge Robin Knowles of the Business and Property Court in London court which sat remotely and behind closed doors, ruled that the award was obtained by fraud and that what has happened in the case is contrary to public policy.
While we celebrate the sweet victory in the UK court judgment, it would be nice to ponder on some of the lessons that could be useful to make Nigeria even better and great for all.
- Morality is superior to legality
Nigeria must realise that a values-driven nation is the only path to greatness. It is important to note that the reason for Nigeria’s victory is premised on the realization by the UK court that the P&ID deal was obtained, in the first place, through fraud consisting of bribes given to top Nigerian government officials. The judge therefore ruled the deal null and void as it was against the UK’s public policy.
Some people may wager that it may have been tough, if not impossible to win this case in the Nigerian judicial system due to its recent penchant of resorting to hard-to-comprehend technicalities of the law rather than the substance, ethics, morality, and common sense of the issues at stake. So many cases come to mind, especially in the political realm. It makes sense to emulate the moral basis of the UK court judgment.
A good judgment should always make common sense. The law should never be an ass that every smart criminal can ride.
- Never give up fighting against corruption
Nigeria must realise that providing a soft landing, or worse still, protecting highly placed corrupt officials and their collaborators is an assured death knell for the nation. That the Buhari administration refused to get into an out-of-court settlement and instead opted to go the full hog of contesting in court the nebulous judgment against Nigeria is highly commendable and must serve as a reference point for future actions on the subject.
Presently, there are numerous cases against some of those currently in high offices in Nigeria which have been stifled or withdrawn and the erstwhile prosecutors hounded while the criminals lap the spoils of their criminal heist as well as continue in their nefarious activities. This serves as an incentive for others to join the ignoble practice of stealing the country blind.
However, corruption of any hue should never be tolerated, least of all, encouraged. Corruption should not just be fought; it must be punished severely.
- Any benefit obtained through fraud must be forfeited:
No one should be allowed to enjoy the benefits of what was fraudulently obtained or stolen. This is regardless of the duration of the period the stolen property has been with the thief or usurper. A man who steals somebody’s land to build a sky-scrapper should lose access to the land and sky-scraper the minute it is established that he stole the land in the first place.
It is trite law that you cannot build something on nothing. Therefore, Nigeria must ensure that that those who steal the nation’s collective assets and/electoral mandates must be made to forfeit such assets or mandates. They and their cohort must as well as be made to pay a heavy penalty for the crime in order to deter orders.
- Tackling corruption successfully provides more revenue for development.
While the world waited with bated breath for the UK judgment on the P&ID scam, Nigeria was supposedly on the verge of losing $11.5 billion. One can only shudder at the thought of that possibility manifesting on that historic day in the UK court.
Conversely, one can also shudder at the thought of the humungous amounts of money Nigeria has been losing (and still losing) to the crude oil thieves, subsidy cartels, and such other activities as over-bloated contracts, illegal mining, extortion, kidnapping and asset stripping. Imagine the positive possibilities if we could rein in all these and rescue our dear nation from its numbing descent into economic strife?
There can never be enough for citizens to steal but with the right policies, laws and will, citizens with good leadership can stem the stealing, so as to ensure enough resources for the economic development of our society.
- The wicked must never go unpunished.
The UK court has recommended a further review of the roles of different individuals, including lawyers, in the P&ID scam, with a view to recommending stiff punishment and sanctions against those who actively executed the wicked plot against Nigeria.
Nigeria must also play its part as well. Nigeria ought to name, shame and punish any Nigerian public officer (past or present) and lawyer(s) who attempted to unwittingly bring Nigeria to her knees in this case and every other case. The same should also be applied to those who mislead and misappply the laws to make criminals and villains escape justice at the expense of society.
Pikin wey say him Mama no go sleep, himself no suppose sleep!