By Nnanke Harry Willie
Embattled former CBN governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele received a big boost to his image recently as a former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation Mr. Michael Aondoakaa credited him with playing a major role in Nigeria’s fight against the infamous P&ID scam which would have cost Nigeria USD11.5 billion.
Just to be clear, Aondoakaa said pointedly that Godwin Emefiele’s analysis of the P&ID issue and his counsel and insistence that Nigeria should engage the best lawyers to fight the then-perceived scam has just saved Nigeria USD11.5 billion.
The question is shouldn’t Emefiele be receiving some flowers from Nigerians and the Tinubu administration at this time especially after being crowned with thorns all this while?
According to Aondoakaa, “Mr Godwin Emefiele saved the country billions of dollars that would otherwise have been paid as arbitral award to a foreign company, Process and Industrial Developments P&ID.”
Aondoakaa who was speaking on an Arise Television breakfast show, said the CBN under Emefiele greatly assisted Nigeria’s legal team in the case instituted against Nigeria in a London court.
Aondoakaa said “I particularly give credit to the CBN under the then Governor, Godwin Emefiele because there was strong pressure that settlement should be made. Our team was in the minority that we must fight till the end.
Aondoakaa however said that “There was also apprehension that if we didn’t settle and the court now give judgment against us, that Nigeria would lose everything.”
Emefiele reportedly “resisted and advised the President strongly against such approval, staking his name in convincing the President that the contract was fraudulent and that the P &ID would not succeed in court if Nigeria hired competent lawyers. It was based on the assurances of Emefiele that President Buhari refused payment and rather encouraged litigation which eventually favoured Nigeria.”
Nigeria’s effort to upturn the whopping judgment debt and avert a major economic consequence paid off last week when a United Kingdom Royal Courts of Justice held that the earlier judgment awarded against Nigeria in favour of P&ID was fraudulent.
Delivering judgment in Nigeria’s appeal against the seizure of its assets anywhere in the world in payment of the said debt, Justice Robin Knowles held that P&ID had engaged in fraud, bribery, and concealment of material facts regarding the contract it entered with Nigeria, among others.
Herein lies the crux of the matter.
If for any reason, the attempt to reverse P&ID’s arbitral award had failed, Emefiele would have received further media bashing for his perceived role in the fiasco and possibly another round of investigations would have been instituted by relevant authorities but now there is a loud silence on his role.
It is however not surprising that this success has quickly been claimed by former President Muhammadu Buhari. Who would blame him? After all, success, as they say, has many parents while ‘failure’ is a miserable orphan.
Hear Buhari: “Rarely in modern times can so few have tried to take so much from so many. If Nigeria had lost its arbitration dispute with Process & Industrial Development in a London court on 23 October, it would have cost our people close to USD15 billion.
We won, and all decent people can sleep easier as a result. Justice Robin Knowles said Nigeria had been the victim of a monstrous fraud. But it was a close-run thing. As the judge said: “I end the case acutely conscious of how readily the outcome could have been different, and of the enormous resources ultimately required from Nigeria as the successful party to make good its challenge.”
“But ordinary Nigerians never took the decisions that ended up before Justice Knowles. Had Nigeria lost, it would have required schools not to be built, nurses not to be trained and roads not to repaired, on an epic scale, to pay a handful of contractors, lawyers and their allies – for a project that never broke ground” Buhari added.
It is noteworthy that Buhari recognised 2 other officials in his government for their contributions to this success but by some sort of accident of omission failed to include Godwin Emefiele as a key contributor.
Had Aondoakaa not spoken, Emefiele would have remained unsung in this riveting and beautiful success story.
This brings us to Emefiele’s current travails. Emefiele was thrown under the bus by the Buhari administration when forces worked at cross-purposes to truncate the Naira redesign policy of President Muhammadu Buhari. Emefiele has since carried the can for that failure and Buhari has never come out to own his project even after he had done so repeatedly in the course of the project.
Buhari has seemingly remained aloof as Emefiele’s reputation is being sullied and his person vilified for executing a programme duly initiated by the Buhari government.
Despite working assiduously under an allegedly rudderless government and keeping the naira, nay the economy on an even keel as best as circumstances permited, It is this writer’s considered opinion that now is a good time to show Emefiele some good graces and free him from his prolonged albeit undue detention.
It is patently unfair to single out, and scapegoat Emefiele when things failed in the Buhari administration on the one hand and, on the other hand ignore him when huge successes such as the P&ID case are recorded.
Only this week, President Tinubu said: “There are a lot of stories going around about what is happening. I’ve told everyone in this country that I can make mistakes. “I have had to hear them out and correct them. Perfection is that of God Almighty.”
It is therefore pertinent at this point to appeal to President Tinubu to use the authority of his good office to kindly give Emefiele a fair shake of the legal dice by either charging him to court or letting him go home to his family after he served his fatherland the best way he could.
This would also be the best way to reward Emefiele for his role in saving Nigeria what former President Buhari said would have amounted to close to USD15 billion. Indeed, Godwin Emefiele deserves his flowers now.