Nigeria has uncovered previously unknown payments to the daughter of a Nigerian official, the country’s lawyer told a UK court on Monday (13 July).
The move is Nigeria’s latest attempt to overturn an arbitration award against it worth close to US$10 billion.
The award has been accruing interest since 2013 and is now worth nearly $10 billion.
Nigeria is seeking permission in the English courts to appeal the award, granted in 2017, despite having missed the 28-day appeal deadline. It says new information came to light only in late 2019.
In an online court hearing, the Nigerian government’s lawyer said it has evidence of payments from companies related to P&ID from Vera Taiga 11 days before the deal was signed.
Vera’s mother, Grace Taiga, was the chief lawyer for the Petroleum Ministry at the time.
The government said one payment of $4,969.50 was made on 30 December 2009 and a second of $5,000 on 31 January 2012.
The payments came to light following a US discovery order in New York, it said. The government also said P&ID officials, and companies linked to it, paid several other officials in relation to the deal.
A message to Vera Taiga on LinkedIn was not immediately returned.
Nigeria’s anti-graft agency charged Grace Taiga last year with accepting bribes and failing to follow protocol related to the contract. She has pleaded not guilty and awaits trial.
Last week, Nigeria suspended the head of the anti-corruption body leading the investigation after the federal attorney general, Abubakar Malami, accused the agency of diverting funds which had been recovered during graft investigations.
P&ID argues that the payments were legitimate and for medical expenses.
“Nigeria’s conspiracy theory against P&ID – hatched almost a decade after the gas supply agreement was signed – relies on speculation and conjecture with no basis in fact,” a spokesman said.
The two-day hearing continues today. The judge’s ruling will determine whether the Nigerian government can continue its appeal and present its full case of alleged fraud in the English courts.