$9.6bn Fine: HEDA Urges FG To Punish Former CJN Belgore

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Yemisi Izuora

The Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre), has called on the federal government to sanction former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Alfa Belgore, for his alleged role in the $9.6bn fine imposed on Nigeria by

a London court.

Justice Belgore was said to have been a key witness to Process and

Industrial Development (PID), a private firm that sued Nigeria over

botched gas contract leading to the $9.6bn judgement debt.

Foremost anti-corruption group, HEDA, said in a petition dated September 16 and

addressed to President Mohammadu Buhari that the former CJN flouted the

Nigerian constitution by providing the legal springboard for the

imposition of fines that almost equal 20 percent of Nigerian foreign

reserves.

A copy of the petition was also sent to the Minister of Justice and

Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Mallami.

In a statement signed by HEDA’ s Chairman Mr Olanrewaju Suraju, the

group said the former CJN should be prosecuted immediately by the Code

of Conduct Bureau before the Code of Conduct Tribunal for violating

Section 5 of the Constitution.

HEDA said by providing supporting evidence for P&ID and proffering the

expert advice for the Irish company, the former CJN violated the

provisions of the Constitution and also put asunder Nigeria’s strategic

national interests. It urged the Federal Government to probe the

incidence to establish whether the CJN’ s action was for personal gains.

“It can be concluded, without equivocation, that drafters of the

Constitution understands weight of the offices occupied by the

prohibited officers and the potential implication of actions such as

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taken by the former CJN”

HEDA said there was a clear case of conflict of interest which violates

the Code of Conduct for Public Officers.

It refers to Section 1 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers which

states that a public officer shall not put his or her person in a

position where personal interest conflicts with his duties and

responsibilities.

It noted that Section 5 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers of

the 1999 Constitution prohibits former Presidents, Vice Presidents,

Chief Justices of Nigeria, governors and deputy governors from working

for the interests of foreign companies or enterprises.

Chief Justice holds strategic positions in Nigeria. He is a member of

the National Council of State Chairman of the Nigerian National Honours

Award Committee and Central Working Group Vision 20.20.20.

Reports claimed Justice Belgore testified as an expert witness before

the arbitration tribunal in the UK’s Business & Property Courts, for the

Irish firm, P&ID.

It was reported that as a result of his expert advice, in which he laid

claims to painstaking analysis of the Nigeria’s laws and exploiting its

shortcomings, cited case laws for the benefit of the firm which resulted

in a humongous arbitral award of $9.6 billion (N3.2 trillion) against

Nigeria.

The genesis of the award commenced from the accusation laid against the

Nigeria Government by P&ID for breach of a 2010 Gas Contract agreement.

It was on his status as a former CJN that the UK tribunal accepted Mr.

Belgore’s opinion with two members of the Tribunal – Lord Hoffman and

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Sir Anthony Evans – ruling that the British Virgin Island firm is

entitled to $6.6billion in damages plus interest until the amount is

paid.

Also, a third member, Nigeria’s former Attorney General, Chief Bayo Ojo,

was said to have given a dissenting opinion, saying P&ID should be paid

not more than $250million.

In August 2019, the UK’s Business & Property Courts granted P&ID’s

request to enforce the 2013 award against Nigeria by the three-member

arbitration tribunal.

The tribunal relied on the Arbitration Act 1996 (England and Wales) and

the Nigerian Arbitration and Conciliation Act 2004.

If the award is executed, according to HEDA, the consequences will be

unpleasant for every Nigerian.

It further stated that “as a result of this breach, the former CJN

should be removed with immediate effect as Chairman of the National

Merit Honour Award Committee. He should be stripped of his National

Honour of Grand Commander of the Niger.”

HEDA said the former CJN, by this act, “is undeserving of the National

Honour currently held, Grand Commander of the Niger, as a holder of this

title ought to hold as utmost priority the nation’s interest, as his

action shoulders disrespect for the country.”

The act committed, according to HEDA, is grave and amounts to a breach

of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers, thereby violating the

provisions of the Constitution.

Suraju said “As a former CJN, he is a member of the Nigerian Council of

State, which is chaired by the incumbent President and is made up of

past Presidents and Head of States of the country, former Chief

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Justices, President of the Senate, Speaker of House of Representatives,

all governors of the 36 states of the country, the Minister of Justice

and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.”.

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