A SENIOR Advocate, Olisa Agbakoba, has hinted that Nigeria’s potential liabilities on contract awards exceeded the country’s total foreign reserves.
He said this on Monday, October 30, when he appeared as a guest on the Arise TV programme, ‘The Morning Show,’ to review the retiring Justice Musa Dattijo’s valedictory speech, which continues to generate interest among lawyers and the general public.
Responding to a question on the Process & Industrial Development (P&ID) case favouring the Nigerian government, Agbakoba said the country was deeply indebted to contract awards cases.
“As I speak, our liabilities on potential awards exceed our foreign reserves.
“There are a thousand other cases. This [the P&ID case] is not the only one. This is the popular one. There are so many cases around the world against Nigeria,” the renowned SAN said.
According to data from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Nigeria’s gross foreign reserves stands at $33.34 billion as of Friday, October 27.
Using the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market (NAFEM) rate, which closed at N993.83/$1 on Monday, October 30, Agbakoba’s estimation of Nigeria’s contract award liabilities could be well over N33.13 trillion.
The ICIR reported that the immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari said it would have cost Nigeria $15 billion had the country lost the P&ID case.
Continuing, Agbakoba noted that he was incidentally the chairman of the National Arbitration Policy Committee set up by a former minister of Justice and Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, on the P&ID case.
He said, “So, I call on the Attorney-General to set up a panel so that we can study these cases and we know what exactly our potential liabilities are.”
According to him, the P&ID award showed a need for more culture of interest on the path of Nigerian leaders.
He queried, “How could two men come into the country, just showed us a powerpoint and get away with a huge contract with the Federal Government and the Federal Ministry of Justice officials, absolutely bungling it.”
Commending Robin Knowles for his “great” wisdom to have detected that what transpired in the P&ID award was not the proper thing to have been done, he lamented that the P&ID case was “humongous embarrassing” for Nigeria.
“I am very happy that it went in our favour, and we have been free from that liability. But there are a thousand other cases.
“This is only the third time in English history that an award is upset. You don’t upturn an award in the English system because the sanctity of an arbitration award is valuable. That is why the English arbitration jurisdiction is one of the most effective in the world.”
Knowles had ruled in favour of the Nigerian government on Monday, October 23, while presiding over the P&ID case in a London Court.
Meanwhile, Agbakoba, while commenting on some of the submissions in Dattijo’s valedictory speech, described the judiciary as the most undemocratic arm of government.
The retiring Justice of the Supreme Court, who reportedly withdrew from the seven-man panel that dismissed all the appeals that sought to remove President Bola Tinubu from office, has accused the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) of abuse of power.
Dattijo, who had spent 47 years in active judicial service, bowed out of the apex court on Friday, October 27, having clocked the 70-year mandatory retirement age.
He used the opportunity of the valedictory session organised in his honour by the Supreme Court to address what he observed as rot in the judiciary that has continued to affect the justice delivery system in the country.
He maintained that the judiciary, as presently structured, gives so much power to the CJN, who he said usually takes decisions without consulting other justices.