Olasupo Shasore, Nigeria’s first counsel in the P&ID arbitration saga, accused of sabotaging his own client, has reacted to the allegations against him.
By Alfred Olufemi
He, however, failed to address the allegations of bribery and other corrupt acts levelled against him in Friday’s judgment of a British court.
The former Attorney General of Lagos State was appointed counsel for Nigeria in the arbitration that culminated in a British Virgin Island’s firm, Process & Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) awarded about $10billion.
The court judgment of Friday revealed that despite receiving the sum of two million dollars to assist in the first and second stages of the arbitration, Mr Shasore worked against the interest of his client.
The Nigerian government also presented evidence that he did not give his best to defend the country’s interest but rather kept pushing for settlement, suggesting that he was compromised.
On January 11, 2010, P&ID, a British firm, signed a gas supply and processing agreement with the Ministry of Petroleum Resources on behalf of the Nigerian government.
Going by the provisions of the agreement, the foreign company was expected to build and operate an Accelerated Gas Development project to be located at Adiabo in Odukpani Local Government Area of Cross River State.
On the other hand, the Nigerian government was to provide natural gas from oil mining leases (OMLs) 123 and 67 operated by Addax Petroleum and supply to P&ID to refine into fuel suitable for power generation in the country.
An initial volume of about 150 million cubic feet of gas per day was expected to be supplied by Nigeria. Eventually, it was to be summed up to about 400 million cubic feet per day during the 20-year period.
The company accused Nigeria of not fulfilling its part of the bargain after negotiations were opened with the Cross River State government for allocation of land for the project.
P&ID claimed the failure to construct the pipeline system to supply the gas “frustrated the construction of the gas project, thereby depriving it of the potential benefits from over 20 years’ worth of gas supplies”.
The company said attempts to settle out of court with the Nigerian government failed. In August 2012, P&ID served the Nigerian government a Request for Arbitration.
However, Nigeria argued before the tribunal that “the failure of P&ID to acquire the site and build Gas Processing Facilities was a fundamental breach and that no gas could be delivered until this has been done.”
But the tribunal ruled that Nigeria’s obligations under Article 6B were not conditional upon P&ID having constructed the gas processing facilities.
In July 2015, the arbitral tribunal found that Nigeria had repudiated its obligations under the GSPA and that P&ID had been entitled to accept the repudiation and claim damages for breach.
On December 23, 2015, the government asked for the award to be set aside.
That was after earlier committing that the arbitration decision shall be final and binding upon parties. Consequently, on February 10, 2016, the application was dismissed, paving way for the hearing on July 22 to 24, 2016 to determine the damages.
Consequently, a commercial court in the United Kingdom, awarded $8.9 billion (about N3.2 trillion) in favour of P&ID.
In a twist of event on Friday, the Nigerian government secured a judgement of a British court following its appeal to suspend the unfavourable ruling.
The judgment, delivered by Ross Cranston, granted Nigeria’s appeal for a stay of execution of the awarded sum.
Amongst the allegations against Mr Shasore is the non-disclosure of his involvement in the case to members of his law firm and running it through a different firm, Twenty Marina Solicitors.
Also, Mr Shasore failed to cross-examine Michael Quinn, the founder of the company, on the matter, an attempt believed to aid the argument of P&ID and sabotage the interest of his country.
More so, the Nigerian government noted in its appeal that Mr Shasore, for more than a year, failed to cooperate in handing over necessary materials to Bolaji Ayorinde, the senior lawyer who replaced him.
Nigeria’s legal representative, Mark Howard, added that in the first two stages of the arbitration, Mr Shasore, deliberately “defended the case thinly”.
Nevertheless, while the case was still ongoing, Mr Shasore allegedly made a questionable payments of $100,000 each to Folakemi Adelore and Mr Ikechukwu Oguine, both legal representatives of the ministry of petroleum resources and NNPC respectively.
The trio, who also discouraged Nigeria from strongly contesting claims of the British firm, formed the settlement team that jetted to London for settlement negotiations with P&ID.
In a statement signed by Mr Shasore on Saturday, he said he is disappointed that the case made against him hinged on false statements.
He described the federal government’s position as spiteful personal attacks on his professional conduct and reputation.
“I was instructed in this matter and accepted the instructions on behalf of my firm and to the knowledge of my partners in late 2012 and I made every effort to defend and vindicate my client at every stage with very few tools and with minimal support from within the government itself,” Mr Shasore said.
“I represented Nigeria up until the liability stage in the arbitration. I did not represent Nigeria in the damages stage of the arbitration. Which means I was not involved when the huge sum of damages was awarded against Nigeria. The complete records will show the series of steps that I took to defend Nigeria and the several results, which I secured in that effort at various stages.”
He noted that he put up the best defence with very little or no cooperation from relevant government officials at the time.
“I filed a jurisdiction objection that potentially could and should indeed have terminated the case in favour
of Nigeria because it was clear to us from the beginning that the contract was a scheme against Nigeria.”
“When the then Nigerian officials failed to supply documents or any witness to defend their case, I fought liability by enlisting the support of the legal adviser of NNPC who gave evidence to the best of his knowledge when everyone else with knowledge, refused to do so.”
As part of efforts made, Mr Shasore added that he obtained an injunction restraining the parties and the tribunal from proceeding with the arbitration then.
Speaking on the legal fees, he stated that it was payment to two law firms and not exceptional or unusual in the context of such a dispute.
“In fact, in order to extract the best possible case for Nigeria, it was from these fees that expenses were paid to ensure attendance at hearings and meetings in the UK by witnesses for Nigeria.”
While he neither debunked or confirmed the allegations of bribery and corruption, he reaffirmed his commitment and professional integrity “to always act in the best interest of Nigeria, victimized by fraud and corruption.”
However, Mr Shasore failed to explain why he made suspicious payments to NNPC officials and why he failed to challenge or push for the nullification of the witness statement of Mr Quinn who died while the arbitration proceedings were underway.
He claimed he got no cooperation from officials of the then government. But he did not say why he did not withdraw from the matter in protest against uncooperative officials.