In a long-standing legal battle spanning over five years, Nigeria has achieved a significant victory in preventing the enforcement of an $11 billion arbitration award in favor of P&ID. The verdict was delivered via email by Robin Knowles, a justice of the Commercial Courts of England and Wales, who ruled in Nigeria’s favor on the grounds of fraud.
Knowles’ decision leaves him with three potential courses of action. He can opt to return the award, either in whole or in part, for reconsideration, set aside the award, or declare it to be of no effect, in whole or in part. The parties involved have been directed to present their arguments for the next steps at a date to be determined.
The judgment, which was eagerly anticipated, marks a significant turning point in a complex legal dispute that began in 2017 when a private arbitration tribunal ordered Nigeria to pay $6.6 billion to P&ID, with interest dating back to March 20, 2013, eventually accumulating to over $11 billion with a seven percent interest rate.
Justice Knowles stated in his determination, “The Awards were obtained by fraud and the way in which they were procured was contrary to public policy. What happened in this case is very serious indeed, and it is important that section 68 has been available to maintain the rule of law.” Section 68 (3) provides the court with the authority to remit the award for reconsideration, set it aside, or declare it to be of no effect.
Nigeria’s legal defense centered on allegations of an “audacious fraud on Nigeria” in the procurement of the contract and arbitration award. They argued that the award should be set aside, emphasizing the trials and convictions of some individuals involved in corruption and money laundering on a large scale.
This latest judgment brings an end to a protracted legal battle and opens a new chapter in the ongoing dispute between Nigeria and P&ID. The decision by Justice Knowles not only protects Nigeria from making a significant financial payment but also underscores the importance of upholding the rule of law in international arbitration cases.