Nigeria’s bid to set aside the $9bn P&ID Limited’s arbitration award has suffered a setback as VR Capital Group Limited has secured a United States’ court ruling to block the Federal Government from accessing its internal documents.
The move to access the documents was part of the government’s attempt to stop P&ID Limited, partly owned by VR, from collecting the nearly $9bn arbitration award.
US District Judge, Paul Engelmayer, in New York granted the hedge fund’s motion, overturning a ruling from May and quashing subpoenas issued by Nigeria.
Bloomberg reported that Nigeria sought the information to aid a corruption probe into P&ID Ltd., a company in which VR Capital acquired a 25 per cent interest in 2018.
Nigeria’s anti-graft agency is investigating a gas-supply contract a former minister concluded with P&ID in 2010 and subsequent arbitration proceedings that resulted in the hefty penalty against the country three years ago. The federal government alleged that the British Virgin Islands-registered company developed sham arrangements designed to fail and has accused P&ID of bribing its officials.
Nigeria is in English courts attempting to overturn both the 2017 arbitration award and a decision by a UK judge last year upholding it, claiming P&ID’s alleged fraud only recently came to light.
P&ID had denied any wrongdoing, saying Nigeria invented the accusations to evade its legal obligations.
Six months ago, Judge Lorna Schofield, also in the Southern District of New York, granted Nigeria permission to gather information from US banks concerning transactions involving companies and people affiliated with P&ID, as well as former government officials.
The Nigerian government also wanted VR Capital to hand over documents concerning its purchase of P&ID shares as well as the decade-old contract and ensuing arbitration.
But VR Capital applied to the federal court in New York to set aside the subpoenas principally on the grounds that Nigeria should have sought authorisation through its mutual legal assistance treaty with the United States. While the hedge fund is based in London, the four entities and two directors targeted by Nigeria are in New York.
Nigeria “misled” Schofield by denying any intention to use the documents in the English proceedings, according to Engelmayer’s November 6 opinion.
VR Capital claimed Nigeria would use the information provided by the hedge fund for the same goal.
Nigeria told Engelmayer that the main use of VR Capital documents would be in its domestic corruption probes. In his ruling, Engelmayer accepted Nigeria’s argument that it would be permissible for the government to present some material to support efforts to challenge the arbitration award in England.
However, a review of the request by the U.S. Justice Department under the treaty would help decide if the information sought was “genuinely intended for use in a criminal prosecution or investigation” or “the improper purpose of fortifying Nigeria’s attempt in the English courts to void the multi-billion-dollar arbitral award against it,” Engelmayer said.
It is unclear if Nigeria plans to submit a new application under the bilateral agreement.
“Delay tactics” adopted by VR Capital and P&ID are “prolonging the discovery process and preventing us from obtaining critical evidence,” a spokeswoman for Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, said.
“These evasive efforts are manifestly inconsistent with P&ID’s position that it has nothing to hide,” she said.
“Misleading the U.S. court” is part of Nigeria’s last-ditch efforts to avoid payment of the arbitration award,” said Zachary Rosenbaum, a lawyer at Kobre & Kim LLP who is representing P&ID and VR Capital.
Nigeria scored a victory in September when a London judge ruled the government had established a “strong prima facie case of fraud” against P&ID and should be permitted to test its allegations at a trial to determine the legitimacy of the arbitration award.
Following the decision, Nigeria’s lawyers wrote to Engelmayer asking him to dismiss VR Capital’s motion.
Information collected from the banks had contributed evidence to the anti-corruption agency’s probe, which in turn had been “critical” to the country’s success in the English court, they said.
Protect the poor from galloping inflation, World Bank advises Nigerian govt, others
… lowers Nigeria’s economic growth forecast
The World Bank has called on the Federal Government of Nigeria and other governments in the Sub-Saharan African region to urgently implement measures to restore macro-economic stability and protect the poor from the high inflation and current slow economic growth.
The World Bank has also lowered its economic growth forecast for Nigeria in 2023 to 3.2 per cent from 3.3 per cent due to the slowdown in global growth, the war in Ukraine and declining demand from China for commodities produced in Africa.
It projected that the Sub-Saharan African region would record a lower economic growth of 3.3 per cent in 2022 as against the 4.1 per cent recorded in 2021.
The forecasts were contained in the October edition of the World Bank’s Africa’s Pulse, a biannual analysis of the near-term regional macroeconomic outlook, and economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).
Highlighting the growth factors for Nigeria’s economy, the World Bank said, “The Nigerian economy is projected to slow in 2023, down to 3.2 per cent (from 3.3 per cent) and persist at this level the following year. Growth will be supported mainly by the rebound in private consumption prompted mostly by accommodative monetary policy as inflationary pressures subside.
“Private consumption expenditure is forecast to decrease this year and grow next year. This performance will likely continue in 2024. On the production side, growth in 2023 will be supported by industry (with the growth of 5.1 per cent) with the mega-refinery project.”
On its growth forecast for the Sub-Saharan African region, the World Bank said: “Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is set to decelerate from 4.1% in 2021 to 3.3% in 2022, a downward revision of 0.3 percentage points since April’s Pulse forecast, mainly as a result of a slowdown in global growth, including flagging demand from China for commodities produced in Africa.
On the factors undermining economic growth in SSA, the World Bank said, “The war in Ukraine is exacerbating already high inflation and weighing on economic activity by depressing both business investments and household consumption. As of July 2022, 29 of 33 countries in SSA with available information had inflation rates over 5% while 17 countries had double-digit inflation.
“Elevated food prices are causing hardships with severe consequences in one of the world’s most food-insecure regions. Hunger has sharply increased in SSA in recent years driven by economic shocks, violence and conflict, and extreme weather. More than one in five people in Africa suffer from hunger and an estimated 140 million people faced acute food insecurity in 2022, up from 120 million people in 2021, according to the Global Report on Food Crises 2022 Mid-Year Update.
“The interconnected crises come at a time when the fiscal space required to mount effective government responses is all but gone. In many countries, public savings have been depleted by earlier programs to counter the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, though resource-rich countries in some cases have benefited from high commodity prices and managed to improve their balance sheet.”
“Debt is projected to stay elevated at 58.6% of GDP in 2022 in SSA. African governments spent 16.5% of their revenues servicing external debt in 2021, up from less than 5% in 2010. Eight out of 38 IDA-eligible countries in the region are in debt distress, and 14 are at high risk of joining them. At the same time, high commercial borrowing costs make it difficult for countries to borrow on national and international markets while tightening global financial conditions are weakening currencies and increasing African countries’ external borrowing costs.”
Stressing the need for governments to improve the efficiency of existing resources and to optimize taxes in response to the above challenges, the World Bank added that, “In the agriculture and food sector, for example, governments have the opportunity to protect human capital and climate-proof food production by re-orienting their public spending away from poorly targeted subsidies toward nutrition-sensitive social protection programmes, irrigation works, and research and development are known to have high returns.”
FG sues Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta over adverts, demands N30bn
The Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) has said it filed a lawsuit at the Federal High Court, Abuja against Meta Platforms Incorporated (owners of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) and its agent AT3 Resources Limited.
The country’s apex advertising governing agency revealed on Tuesday that the advertisements on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp in the Nigerian markets are not vetted and approved by the federal government.
ARCON then asserted that such continued unscrutinised adverts and other publications emanating from Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta-owned social media platforms are illegal, unlawful and a violation of the extant advertising Law in Nigeria, thus seeking N30 billion for punitive damages.
It revealed this in a statement titled “ARCON sues Meta platforms incorporated, seeks N30b in sanction and penalties.”
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The statement read: “The Advertising Regulatory Council of Nigeria (ARCON) has instituted a suit against Meta Platforms Incorporated (owners of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp platforms) and its agent AT3 Resources Limited at the Federal High Court, Abuja Judicial Division.
“ARCON is seeking declaration among others that the continued publication and exposure of various advertisements directed at the Nigerian market through Facebook and Instagram platforms by Meta Platforms Incorporated without ensuring same is vetted and approved before exposure is illegal, unlawful and a violation of the extant advertising Law in Nigeria.
“ARCON stated that Meta Platforms Incorporated’s continued exposure of unvetted adverts has also led to a loss of revenue to the Federal Government.
“ARCON is seeking N30b in sanction for the violation of the advertising laws and for loss of revenue as a result of Meta Incorporated’s continued exposure of unapproved adverts on its platforms.
“ARCON reiterate that it would not permit unethical and irresponsible advertising on the Nigeria’s advertising space.
“ARCON further stated that it’s not regulating the online media space but rather advertisement, advertising and marketing communications on the online platforms in line with its establishment Act.”
NNPC declares over 100% profit in one year, with N674bn for 2021
The Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited recorded a profit after tax (PAT) of N674 billion for the year ended 2021.
This is more than 100 per cent profit over the N287bn declared in the previous year (2020).
The Group Chief Executive Officer, NNPC Limited, Mele Kyari, disclosed this at a briefing on Tuesday.
He said, “Today, I’m happy to announce that the Board of NNPC has approved 2021 audited financial statements & NNPC has progressed to a new performance level, from N287bn profit in 2020 to N674bn profit after tax in 2021, climbing higher by 134.8% YoY profit growth.”
The 2021 financial year made it the fourth consecutive year that the NNPC will be opening its book for public scrutiny.
In 2018, when the NNPC first made account statement public, it reported a loss of N803.9bn.
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