P&ID And It’s Nigerian Conspirators. By Shaka Momodu

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Finally, the fog surrounding the fraudulent motivation behind the failed Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA) between Nigeria and Process & Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) is being cleared gradually by a United Kingdom Commercial Court, which has established a prima facie case of fraud against P&ID. The Nigerian conspirators are being exposed and men who had long presented themselves as the epitome of civility and patriotism have been outed in court records in a foreign land and pronounced dishonest. They have become the shame of our country and the legal profession that for far too long has rewarded rent and cant with the nobility of its silk.

Now, Mr Olasupo Shasore, SAN, does not need much introduction. He is no ordinary SAN, he is a former Attorney General of Lagos State, under former Governor Babatunde Fashola’s government, and would have succeeded Fashola as governor but for the strongman of Lagos politics who brought Fashola’s plan to a screeching halt. At first sight, Shasore is a likable person, urbane with a commanding presence. His voice resonates and distinguishes him from the pack; his diction and articulation are marvelous and brilliant.

Hitherto, he had busied himself trying to reenact and recalibrate our country’s history through new lenses. His documentary, “The Journey of an African Colony: The Making of Nigeria,” is a documentary modelled after his books, “A Platter of Gold: Making Nigeria” and “Possessed: A History of Law & Justice in the Crown Colony of Lagos.” A historical tour of duty and a thankless effort you would call it. I had been impressed by his post-office engagements. I had started to develop a liking for him after watching that documentary on Nigeria and listening to his interviews. I like this guy, I repeatedly told myself. Well, who wouldn’t anyway? The boy was good until that UK court judgment.

You can therefore understand my horror a fortnight ago when news filtered in that Shasore, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, had been found wanting in character and conduct by a London Commercial Court. I cringed when I read details of the judgment on Nigeria’s complaint against an arbitral award of $10 billion to Process & Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) for a failed gas deal. Shasore was at the early stages of the arbitration defending Nigeria, and was at the same time, working against his client and country. As the London Court has established and documented in court records, he defended his country “thinly”. Can anyone beat that? From what I know, lawyers are very particular about their choice of words and weigh carefully the weight and meaning of words thrown at them. So I am sure Shasore doesn’t think for a moment that we missed the weight of what just happened to his reputation and professional integrity as documented in court records in faraway London.

Here is a summary of the court findings from the judgment: Mr. Shasore was a partner in the firm of Ajumogobia, Okeke and Co. There is evidence given by the firm that Shasore handled this case secretly without involving his law firm. He rather ran the case through another law firm Twenty Marina Solicitors and was paid a $2 million fee. However, in a statement after the judgment, Shasore denied this claim and said his partners were in the know.

• He failed to file Nigeria’s defence by September 19, 2014 as was ordered by the Tribunal.

He rather wrote to A-G Mohammed Bello Adoke, “There appears to be a lack of exonerating facts or documentary evidence with which to defend the claim.” Contrast this position with Mr. Howard, Nigeria’s new counsel’s submission in paragraph 212 of the judgment.

Legal Adviser to the ministry wrote a memo recommending an out-of-court settlement on 11/11/14 and received $100,000 on 18/11/14. There was an equivalent payment to Mr. Oguine, the NNPC legal adviser. Both payments from Mr. Shasore. The three of them thereafter travelled to London in Dec 2014 for settlement negotiation.

On 20/12/14, Ms Adelore wrote a memo to the P.S of the Ministry where she raised fears that the arbitration might award P&ID its claim of $5.9 billion and Nigeria should offer something lower which P&ID might accept.

• It is not surprising, considering the above and several other instances, the judge held that Shasore deliberately defended the case “thinly” such that the Tribunal had no choice but find and award in favour of P&ID. In effect, the court held that Shasore had colluded with P&ID with the inevitable result that Nigeria would lose the case.

Paragraphs 211-214 of the judgment (all of which were upheld by the judge) were the most damaging excoriation of Shasore by Mr. Howard.

• In paragraph 221, the judge found Shasore dishonest and that he made payments to Ms. Adelore, Mr. Oguine and Ms. Taiga to purchase their silence in relation to his conduct of arbitration and settlement negotiation. He concluded on this basis that the arbitration was tainted.

The judge found that a prima facie case of fraud had been established and stated as follows: “However, what persuade me of a prima facie case of dishonesty in Mr. Shasore’s conduct of the arbitration are his payments of US$100,000 each to Ms. Adelore and Mr. Oguine. Ms Adelore occupied Ms Taiga’s position at the Ministry as the senior lawyer, and Mr. Oguine was her counterpart at the NNPC. Their salaries as public servants, according to the Attorney General, Mr. Abubakar Malami, were some US$5,000 per annum.

Mr. Mill submitted that these payments had nothing to do with P&ID. Moreover, Mr. Shasore had volunteered the information about them to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and described them as gifts. The argument that Mr. Shasore volunteered the payments goes nowhere, since once the EFCC had information from the bank accounts; it was difficult to deny them. As to Mr Shasore’s account that these were gifts, that does not seem to me a complete and honest explanation for why he should make these payments to these senior public servants.”

In paragraphs 196 to 198 of the judgment, the Judge agreed with Nigeria’s argument that the contract was corrupt ab initio: “In my view, there is a strong prima facie case that the GSPA was procured by bribery. It is sufficient to focus on the two senior officials whose positions ensured its safe passage by giving the requisite approvals. First, there is Ms Taiga, who was the senior legal adviser to the ministry at the time of the GSPA and recommended its execution. In their second statements, both Ms Taiga and Mr Cahill accept that payments were made to her by P&ID, but their account is that they were intended for Ms Taiga’s medical expenses. There is no supporting evidence for this, such as contemporaneous communications between P&ID and Ms Taiga referring to her medical needs.

“In any event, whether these payments were for medical or other expenses, as the Attorney General explains in his seventh statement, benefits received by public officials from individuals holding or seeking to obtain a contract are assumed to be bribes under the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000 and the Nigerian Constitution. Further, as he explains in his sixth statement, Ms Taiga’s annual salary was US$5,000. The total amount paid to Ms Taiga from 2009 was many times that amount.

“There is also the point Mr Howard highlighted, that Ms Taiga and Mr Cahill did not mention any payments to her before 2015, after her retirement. Earlier this year, following the applications in New York under 28 USC § 1782(a), the payments to Ms Taiga’s daughter of US$4,969.50 and US$5,000 on 30 December 2009 and 31 January 2012 respectively, were identified. The first payment is especially significant, since it was 11 days before the GSPA was signed.” From the contract award to arbitration over a breach of the agreement, everything was tainted.

Now, if we interrogate the timelines as we must do, the true purpose of the gifts and Adelore’s memo to the Permanent Secretary advising for a negotiated payment to P&ID becomes very interesting. After receiving a $100,000 gift from Shasore, Adelore drafted a memo expressing fears that if Nigeria did not make an offer to P&ID lower than their demand at the arbitration, they were going to be awarded the total sums at the arbitration. She advised speedy settlement. From the sequence of events, they were all in on the deal to defraud Nigeria. Senior lawyers in silk robes, government officials, were all in collusion with an international syndicate of fraudsters to defraud our fatherland.

As the Judge noted, the court is not sold on Shasore’s explanation. And I agree because it makes no sense. Shasore’s explanation would have been laughable if it weren’t so deadly serious and goes to the heart of corrupting the entire arbitral process and award. The attempt by Shasore to mislead the London Court as to the true purposes of the huge monetary payments, or “gifts”, as he claimed, paid to government officials became the corruptive predicate that established a prima facie case that the entire arbitral process was tainted. The defence that the payments or “gifts” may have just been coincidence of occurrence is not just implausible; it proved unavailing to Sharore in the circumstance, considering the probative weight of evidence established by the court against him.

He was one of those with dual loyalty, purportedly working for Nigeria and at the same time working against Nigeria’s interest. It’s a cruel revelation that makes me nauseous that someone of such high public standing has been caught in an epic misconduct by a court of law and referred to in such unflattering terms. Someone many, including me, I dare say, had begun to see as an inspiring figure.

You see, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion reached by the court about Shasore’s conduct. Indeed, his conduct is questionable and requires criminal investigation and prosecution. But as a first step, the judgment of the London Court should be referred to the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee, LPDC, of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, to commence the process to debar him. In consonance, the Legal Practitioners’ and Privileges Committee, LPPC, should also withdraw Shasore’s SANship or suspend it immediately. Going by court records, he is unfit to wear the exalted robes as a senior lawyer and mark of professional achievement.

The scripture says the love of money is the root of all evil. After being paid $2 million of taxpayers’ money by the government to defend its interest in the arbitration, Shasore betrayed his fatherland to “collude with P&ID” to undermine Nigeria and work against its interest. He defended Nigeria “thinly” without rigour and vigour or transparency, and the evidentiary basis needed to win.

It is curious that after his scathing indictment by the English Court, all he did was to issue a general statement on the outcome, claiming some sort of vindication for Nigeria’s win. He was however silent on the payments he made to public officials and what those payments were for. He was also silent on key pronouncements of the court that rip apart his professional integrity with the potential of him facing charges.

Here is a senior lawyer accused of professional misconduct, unethical behaviour by colluding with P&ID against his country, and pronounced dishonest by a sitting Judge.

If Shasore’s conduct, as identified by the court, does not amount to a serious and severe breach of professional ethics or malpractice warranting punishment by his professional body, I wonder what else does. And all he could do was to issue a banal statement that failed to address his weighty denouncement by the court?

Accusation of colluding with P&ID should have drawn a forceful rebuttal from Shasore if he wasn’t so guilty. Why was he silent on such potential career-ending accusations levelled against him in a court judgment? Or do words not carry meaning anymore? And why did he give those public servants such huge financial “gifts” and at whose behest? No one knows him to be that generous as to wake up one morning and just give people cash handouts. Shasore’s gifts came with intent to corrupt, as established by the court and he can’t run away from that.

That he was paid by Nigeria to defend Nigeria and was surreptitiously also working for P&ID for whatever pecuniary benefits derived or to be derived, in a case where the stakes were so high, with grave implications for the country smacks of the ultimate betrayal.

I cannot think of a conduct more forbidden than what Shasore has been accused of in that judgment.

There is no hope left that a good man still exists in this country. Clearly, our nightmare will not end in a miracle of a good man rising.

For those who don’t know, the P&ID case threatened the future of many unborn children.

When you are blinded by greed, how much does it take to see the light? To do this and still claim patriotism, then that person must have a very warped sense of what patriotism means.

It took some diligent, astute London lawyers and a judge with a discerning mind to dismantle the pyramid of lies and elaborate ponzi scheme to fleece our country. I am staggered by the precipitous impudence of the actors. Thankfully, their hopes of a merry payday have fallen like a pack of cards.

Collusions between “criminal” minded lawyers prosecuting cases and defence attorneys to frustrate convictions, particularly in cases involving politicians, high-profile individuals, illicit drug cases, money laundering, deliberate obstruction of justice, etc., are quite rampant here. Lawyers aiding and abetting forgery and even procuring death certificates for drug suspects which are presented in courts to defeat or abruptly bring an end to the trial of their clients, are equally widespread.

It will frighten you the extent these people go to frustrate the trial of their clients. The temple of justice is a marketplace where black market injunctions are traded by a syndicate of lawyers, judges, court clerks, bailiffs, the police or even governments at all levels. It’s a bizarre quest to frustrate the ends of justice. If that case was heard here, the judge would have been promised a share of the money to pass judgment against Nigeria!

I have often told my friends each time we ruminate about our country that the main problem with Nigeria lies with the people who populate this geographical space. It is the people who structured the country into this dysfunctional unworkable giant contraption, full of potential, short on progress.

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Founded on January 22, 1995, THISDAY is published by THISDAY NEWSPAPERS LTD., 35 Creek Road Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria with offices in 36 states of Nigeria , the Federal Capital Territory and around the world. It is Nigeria’s most authoritative news media available on all platforms for the political, business, professional and diplomatic elite and broader middle classes while serving as the meeting point of new ideas, culture and technology for the aspirationals and millennials. The newspaper is a public trust dedicated to the pursuit of truth and reason covering a range of issues from breaking news to politics, business, the markets, the arts, sports and community to the crossroads of people and society.

The Verdict By Olusegun Adeniyi, Email: olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com
10′
Kebbi Disaster and the Hippopotamus
editorSeptember 17, 2020 12:05 Am
Residents of Zaria Kalakala in Koko-Besse local government, Kebbi State, were still counting their losses from the flood that washed away their farmlands and destroyed their houses when they were confronted by a huge hippopotamus that had strayed out of the water to scavenge. Rather than go for their guns or other assault weapons as most often happens in such situations in the country, they helped the semiaquatic mammal back to its natural habitat (See Video Below).
That hippopotamus was fortunate. In August 2011, a national newspaper carried a front page photograph of a hunter named Alhaji Maman Musa, sitting atop a hippopotamus he killed on River Niger. Four years later in 2015, another was shot dead in controversial circumstances at Dadinkowa dam by hunters in Gombe State. And in February 2017, it was in Abaji area council of Abuja that a hippopotamus met its death. In each of these situations, mobs descended on the scene with cutting implements to harvest portions of free meat that the late American hunter and writer, Peter Hathaway Capstick, once romanticized as “one of the finest of game foods … The taste is mild, less than lamb and more than beef, slightly more marbled than usual venison.”

It is comforting that even in their moment of distress, Zaria Kalakala villagers understood the threat posed to the natural ecosystem from acute depletion of animals such as hippopotamus. We will come back to the lesson that teaches, but the story of the stranded Hippopotamus at Zaria Kalakala is perhaps the only bright spot in the monumental natural disaster that has in recent weeks befallen Kebbi State. In towns and villages in no fewer than 11 local governments, including Birnin Kebbi, Argungu, Bunza, Suru, Koko-Besse, Yauri, Shanga, Bagudo, Maiyama, Jega and Dandi, thousands of people have been rendered homeless and almost destitute. Five bridges located in different parts of the state have also been washed away by the raging flood that has cut off several communities along the River Niger Bank. Having spent almost 24 hours in the state on an energy-sapping trip last weekend, the scale of the damage I witnessed is enormous.

Last Thursday, following calls from friends who shared stories of the flooding that had sacked several communities in their state, I reached out to Governor Atiku Bagudu for more information. He responded by telling me I would not understand the enormity of the damage unless I visited the state. Since he was in Abuja to brief the president, he proposed that I join him on the Friday afternoon (Azman airlines) flight to Birnin Kebbi. When I hesitated, he told me I could return by Saturday on the flight that would bring the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mohammed Sanunu, who was coming to inspect the damage.

We arrived the state at about 2.30PM last Friday and, after a quick lunch, set out to tour the affected areas. We did not return to the state capital until midnight. What I saw on that trip to the southern part of the state, stretching more than 300 kilometres, was heartrending. As we journeyed from Birnin Kebbi along the Bagudo-Tuga-Kaoje route, which leads to the border with the Republic of Benin, we encountered a long line of refugees who had been forced to move to the roadside with their families and whatever remained of their possessions. The journey terminated at the Tuga Bridge that is now submerged, cutting off border communities and access to the critical River Niger bridge that links the two countries. Although many schools were being converted to makeshift Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps, it was evident that the expertise to deal with the emergency was sorely lacking. The people I encountered resembled victims of war. I saw a girl who straddled a goat on her back like a baby – perhaps the only possession the family could rescue before the flood took over their settlement.

At Kende Bridge, we came down from the vehicle and trekked to a village about two kilometres away. That enabled us to more clearly witness the devastation. More than half of Bagudo township had been consumed by water (flood). Villages including Soshiya, Saki jiki, Tungar Zaga, Tungar Gyara, Tungar Himo, Bidiwi, Tungar Rini, Yuna Babba Da karama, Tuga, Marake, Kende and others can also now be accessed only by wooden boats that litter the place. Schools have been converted to IDP camps and are swarming with hundreds of men, women and children. The Kebbi State Emergency Management Authority (KSEMA) chairman, Alhaji Sani Dododo, put the number of death at 32 persons. According to the president of the Kebbi Farmers Association, 450,000 hectares of the 500,000 hectares of farmland swept away are on the rice belt. The remaining 50 hectares grow soya beans, millet, maize, groundnut and guinea corn.

At every location, Bagudu would alight from his vehicle, speak with the people, ask for their immediate needs and then detail officials to stay and attend to them. When night fell, at every one of the stops, six vehicles (three on either side) would put on their headlamps for illumination while the governor stood in the middle to address the flood victims. But the scale of the damage is overwhelming. In addition to houses, schools and hospitals being submerged, the Bagudo prison was also overtaken by water, forcing the relocation of inmates to Birnin Kebbi correctional facility.

Last Friday night, I could sleep only for a few hours. By next morning, I went ahead of Bagudu (who had to receive the minister of agriculture at the airport) to Argungu for a scheduled appointment with the Emir, HRH Alhaji Samaila Muhammadu Mera. He shared with me harrowing tales from fishing communities in the northern part of the state that borders Sokoto. “As farmers, what we have experienced is total devastation both for crops and fishes. Rice farmlands have been wiped off and we have lost practically all the fish farms,” lamented the Emir. “But the greater challenge is that many people are now homeless. Go and see all our schools, they are brimming with displaced people,” he told me shortly before receiving the visiting Sanono who came with his team from Abuja to inspect the damage.

The rage of nature in Kebbi is monumental because it came from both the north and south. On the northern axis, the Birnin-Kebbi-Makera-Kangiwa international highway, which runs from the state capital to Niger Republic, currently stands the risk of caving in at Duku. At Makera bridge last Saturday, Bagudu showed Sanunu and his team the extent of destruction to farmlands within the Argungu precincts. He also explained what caused the damage. Being in a valley, Kebbi State was at the receiving end of the water from Goronyo and Bakolori dams in Sokoto as well as water from the River Niger released by authorities of Niger Republic. Meanwhile, the dams in Jebba and Kainji have attained their highest water levels in three decades and a deluge of rain resulted in surrounding rivers and streams overflowing their banks. The water from River Rima that comes to join River Niger moves uphill as it approaches the tributary in the southern part of Kebbi because of siltation. This, combined with a period of heavy downpours, has put the state practically under water!

For Kebbi, there is an urgent need for immediate relief measures. And then, the state requires short, medium and long term plans. This should apply to other flood-prone states in the country as well. What I fear most in Kebbi is an epidemic of disease arising from villages where residents still hang around their waterlogged places of abode contaminated by the surrounding waters. In the short term, what the Emir of Argungu requested, also the clarion call of resilient farmers, is that while they may have lost this rainy season farming, there is hope for the coming dry season – usually for two farming cycles. Chairman of the Wheat Farmers Association, Alhaji Abdullahi Argungu, revealed that the entire Fadama rice fields and “90 per cent of the farmlands have been submerged by the floods.” He appealed that farmers be provided with improved seedlings for maize, cassava, potatoes and other varieties for immediate planting. So, with the right help, farmers can still bounce back.

Meanwhile, this recent trip to Kebbi State was an eye opener because I visited places I had never been to before. In Bagudo and adjoining local governments, the vegetation is not different from what you have in the southern part of the country. Not only do they grow thick timber, crops like palm oil, banana and cocoa also abound. This testifies to the richness of our land. But the point I want to make is with regard to the saved hippopotamus of Zaria Kalakala. With little or no effort to preserve the vast diversity of wildlife in our country, we have become obsessed with what we will eat today. We hardly care about tomorrow and the ecosystem that sustains our world. Sadly, it is something that is common with societies like ours. Which is why the villagers of Zaria Kalakala are so remarkable.

In his famous book, ‘Why Worry About Future Generations?’ which deals with how what we do today impacts what happens tomorrow, Samuel Scheffler, professor of philosophy at New York University, argues that there is a deep interconnection between the interest in ourselves and our concern for successor generations. That is a lesson we are yet to imbibe because of the preoccupation with immediate need (sometimes greed) that blinds us to the reality that we owe the future an obligation to live responsibly. The World Commission on Environment and Development could have been referring to Nigeria in a statement it once made that, “We borrow environmental capital from future generations with no intention or prospect of repaying…We act as we do because we can get away with it: future generations do not vote; they have no political or financial power; they cannot challenge our decisions.”

The sad aspect is that we see this lack of care about the future in the way we run our affairs in practically all areas of our national life. Yet there is no better time than now to begin to make radical choices about our future. It is good to establish a committee for 2050 as President Muhammadu Buhari did last week with the National Steering Committee to oversee the development of the Nigeria Agenda 2050 to be jointly chaired by Mr Atedo Peterside (representing the private sector) and Mrs Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning. The hope is that it will not end up like previous ones that were no more than bus rides to nowhere. Besides, the kind of choices we need to make are not what a committee can do.

All said, the growing challenge with flooding in Kebbi, as in several other states, results from climate change. While no country can legislate against the fury of nature, we can take bold decisions to mitigate its impact in a bid to building a resilient, inclusive and sustainable future. But we are failing miserably. The World Economic Forum has just released a report on population projections that point to a looming danger for our country. While the populations of both India and China will begin to contract from 2050 with a projection that “China’s total population will drop by almost half to 732 million by 2100”, Sub-Saharan Africa led by Nigeria “is the only region that will continue to see growth by century’s end.” Nigeria, according to the same report, “is dealing with a land area nearly 11 times smaller than the United States’—but it will have more than double the population.”

The demographic time bomb alone deserves serious attention but it is one we hardly concern ourselves with. Not only is our population growth rate outstripping our resources and productivity, we are not planning any projection on how many mouths we will feed in the years to come. That some villagers in Kebbi understand the significance of wildlife protection shows that all is not lost. It is something we should build upon even as we deal with the immediate challenge of havoc wreaked by floods on lives and livelihoods in several states.

At the end, what we must confront as a national priority is how to ensure that the Nigeria of tomorrow offers greater opportunities than today. That will not happen if the majority of our people remain chained to cultural values and belief systems that promote irresponsible procreation. The ultimate lesson from Zaria Kalakala in Kebbi State: We must begin to take seriously the sustainability of our environment.

You can follow me on my Twitter handle, @Olusegunverdict and on www.olusegunadeniyi.com

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Founded on January 22, 1995, THISDAY is published by THISDAY NEWSPAPERS LTD., 35 Creek Road Apapa, Lagos, Nigeria with offices in 36 states of Nigeria , the Federal Capital Territory and around the world. It is Nigeria’s most authoritative news media available on all platforms for the political, business, professional and diplomatic elite and broader middle classes while serving as the meeting point of new ideas, culture and technology for the aspirationals and millennials. The newspaper is a public trust dedicated to the pursuit of truth and reason covering a range of issues from breaking news to politics, business, the markets, the arts, sports and community to the crossroads of people and society.

3′
DEALING WITH VISUAL IMPAIRMENT
editorAugust 17, 2020 12:08 Am
The authorities should pay more attention to the visually impaired

One of the most neglected health challenges in Nigeria is blindness, with reports suggesting that 1.6 million persons are visually impaired. While that number may appear insignificant in a population of 200 million people, the World Health Organisation (WHO) believes the visual impairment of one person affects four other persons. In effect, at least 6.4 million Nigerians are either spending the productive times of their lives as caregivers for blind persons or are unable to live quality lives because they have a blind family member to take care of. Also worrisome is that the four million partially impaired Nigerians are likely to go totally blind as well if nothing is done to address the burden. This is a challenge for the authorities in the health sector.

Sadly, of these 1.6 million blind Nigerians, many are within the productive years, and are likely not going to make ends meet for themselves and their families; a scenario that fuels poverty for themselves and the society. The real tragedy really is that despite these worrying indices, Nigeria has not taken the public health challenge as a priority, as there are currently no special available healthcare interventions or social programmes against visual impairment, commonly caused by glaucoma, cataract, and trachoma. The former president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Mike Ogirima, recently raised the alarm that only about 300 ophthalmologists are in the country for its 200 million population.

With many of our health professionals relocating abroad due to our poor reward system, it is instructive that Egypt, a fellow African country, has 2,139 ophthalmologists for its population of 94 million, while the South African population of 57 million has at least 342 ophthalmologists to cater for the eyes of its citizens. That Nigeria, which prides itself as the giant of Africa, and the biggest economy on the continent, has only 1.5 ophthalmologists per one million citizens, is shameful. Just recently, Noor Dubai Foundation said Katsina State has over 25,000 blind people and another 100,000 with some visual loss. More worrying was that the report suggested that there were only four ophthalmologists to cater for the thousands of blind people, with the entire state having only about 10 to15 per cent of eye care services being covered.

This therefore calls for urgent intervention from the federal and state governments, as well as healthcare stakeholders, including development partners. There is an urgent need to put up programmes that would ensure the requisite intervention the challenge of blindness deserves in the country. Specifically, government at all levels should establish an intervention programme for blindness, just as it has done for Lassa fever, HIV, malaria and tuberculosis. They should also put in place policies that would encourage doctors to major in eye care. With the disease known to have a close relationship with poverty and illiteracy, it should set up social intervention programmes to support treatment and management of the health challenge in persons affected.

Of important consequences are the number of out-of-school children who will end up not getting proper education because they are blind and unable to learn, and the inability of children to attend school because the bread winners of their homes, who should take them through school are blind and unable to earn money for their educational support. Nigerians should also do well to prevent risk factors associated with blindness, which includes smoking, unhealthy diets and hygiene, direct sunlight, injuries to the eyes, among others.

Since the situation we are in is that of emergency in the sector, we call for more concerted efforts in dealing with the menace of blindness in our country.

P&ID And It’s Nigerian Conspirators.

By Shaka Momodu

Finally, the fog surrounding the fraudulent motivation behind the failed Gas Supply Processing Agreement (GSPA) between Nigeria and Process & Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) is being cleared gradually by a United Kingdom Commercial Court, which has established a prima facie case of fraud against P&ID. The Nigerian conspirators are being exposed and men who had long presented themselves as the epitome of civility and patriotism have been outed in court records in a foreign land and pronounced dishonest. They have become the shame of our country and the legal profession that for far too long has rewarded rent and cant with the nobility of its silk.

Now, Mr Olasupo Shasore, SAN, does not need much introduction. He is no ordinary SAN, he is a former Attorney General of Lagos State, under former Governor Babatunde Fashola’s government, and would have succeeded Fashola as governor but for the strongman of Lagos politics who brought Fashola’s plan to a screeching halt. At first sight, Shasore is a likable person, urbane with a commanding presence. His voice resonates and distinguishes him from the pack; his diction and articulation are marvelous and brilliant.

Hitherto, he had busied himself trying to reenact and recalibrate our country’s history through new lenses. His documentary, “The Journey of an African Colony: The Making of Nigeria,” is a documentary modelled after his books, “A Platter of Gold: Making Nigeria” and “Possessed: A History of Law & Justice in the Crown Colony of Lagos.” A historical tour of duty and a thankless effort you would call it. I had been impressed by his post-office engagements. I had started to develop a liking for him after watching that documentary on Nigeria and listening to his interviews. I like this guy, I repeatedly told myself. Well, who wouldn’t anyway? The boy was good until that UK court judgment.

You can therefore understand my horror a fortnight ago when news filtered in that Shasore, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, had been found wanting in character and conduct by a London Commercial Court. I cringed when I read details of the judgment on Nigeria’s complaint against an arbitral award of $10 billion to Process & Industrial Development Limited (P&ID) for a failed gas deal. Shasore was at the early stages of the arbitration defending Nigeria, and was at the same time, working against his client and country. As the London Court has established and documented in court records, he defended his country “thinly”. Can anyone beat that? From what I know, lawyers are very particular about their choice of words and weigh carefully the weight and meaning of words thrown at them. So I am sure Shasore doesn’t think for a moment that we missed the weight of what just happened to his reputation and professional integrity as documented in court records in faraway London.

Here is a summary of the court findings from the judgment: Mr. Shasore was a partner in the firm of Ajumogobia, Okeke and Co. There is evidence given by the firm that Shasore handled this case secretly without involving his law firm. He rather ran the case through another law firm Twenty Marina Solicitors and was paid a $2 million fee. However, in a statement after the judgment, Shasore denied this claim and said his partners were in the know.

• He failed to file Nigeria’s defence by September 19, 2014 as was ordered by the Tribunal.

He rather wrote to A-G Mohammed Bello Adoke, “There appears to be a lack of exonerating facts or documentary evidence with which to defend the claim.” Contrast this position with Mr. Howard, Nigeria’s new counsel’s submission in paragraph 212 of the judgment.

Legal Adviser to the ministry wrote a memo recommending an out-of-court settlement on 11/11/14 and received $100,000 on 18/11/14. There was an equivalent payment to Mr. Oguine, the NNPC legal adviser. Both payments from Mr. Shasore. The three of them thereafter travelled to London in Dec 2014 for settlement negotiation.

On 20/12/14, Ms Adelore wrote a memo to the P.S of the Ministry where she raised fears that the arbitration might award P&ID its claim of $5.9 billion and Nigeria should offer something lower which P&ID might accept.

• It is not surprising, considering the above and several other instances, the judge held that Shasore deliberately defended the case “thinly” such that the Tribunal had no choice but find and award in favour of P&ID. In effect, the court held that Shasore had colluded with P&ID with the inevitable result that Nigeria would lose the case.

Paragraphs 211-214 of the judgment (all of which were upheld by the judge) were the most damaging excoriation of Shasore by Mr. Howard.

• In paragraph 221, the judge found Shasore dishonest and that he made payments to Ms. Adelore, Mr. Oguine and Ms. Taiga to purchase their silence in relation to his conduct of arbitration and settlement negotiation. He concluded on this basis that the arbitration was tainted.

The judge found that a prima facie case of fraud had been established and stated as follows: “However, what persuade me of a prima facie case of dishonesty in Mr. Shasore’s conduct of the arbitration are his payments of US$100,000 each to Ms. Adelore and Mr. Oguine. Ms Adelore occupied Ms Taiga’s position at the Ministry as the senior lawyer, and Mr. Oguine was her counterpart at the NNPC. Their salaries as public servants, according to the Attorney General, Mr. Abubakar Malami, were some US$5,000 per annum.

Mr. Mill submitted that these payments had nothing to do with P&ID. Moreover, Mr. Shasore had volunteered the information about them to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and described them as gifts. The argument that Mr. Shasore volunteered the payments goes nowhere, since once the EFCC had information from the bank accounts; it was difficult to deny them. As to Mr Shasore’s account that these were gifts, that does not seem to me a complete and honest explanation for why he should make these payments to these senior public servants.”

In paragraphs 196 to 198 of the judgment, the Judge agreed with Nigeria’s argument that the contract was corrupt ab initio: “In my view, there is a strong prima facie case that the GSPA was procured by bribery. It is sufficient to focus on the two senior officials whose positions ensured its safe passage by giving the requisite approvals. First, there is Ms Taiga, who was the senior legal adviser to the ministry at the time of the GSPA and recommended its execution. In their second statements, both Ms Taiga and Mr Cahill accept that payments were made to her by P&ID, but their account is that they were intended for Ms Taiga’s medical expenses. There is no supporting evidence for this, such as contemporaneous communications between P&ID and Ms Taiga referring to her medical needs.

“In any event, whether these payments were for medical or other expenses, as the Attorney General explains in his seventh statement, benefits received by public officials from individuals holding or seeking to obtain a contract are assumed to be bribes under the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000 and the Nigerian Constitution. Further, as he explains in his sixth statement, Ms Taiga’s annual salary was US$5,000. The total amount paid to Ms Taiga from 2009 was many times that amount.

“There is also the point Mr Howard highlighted, that Ms Taiga and Mr Cahill did not mention any payments to her before 2015, after her retirement. Earlier this year, following the applications in New York under 28 USC § 1782(a), the payments to Ms Taiga’s daughter of US$4,969.50 and US$5,000 on 30 December 2009 and 31 January 2012 respectively, were identified. The first payment is especially significant, since it was 11 days before the GSPA was signed.” From the contract award to arbitration over a breach of the agreement, everything was tainted.

Now, if we interrogate the timelines as we must do, the true purpose of the gifts and Adelore’s memo to the Permanent Secretary advising for a negotiated payment to P&ID becomes very interesting. After receiving a $100,000 gift from Shasore, Adelore drafted a memo expressing fears that if Nigeria did not make an offer to P&ID lower than their demand at the arbitration, they were going to be awarded the total sums at the arbitration. She advised speedy settlement. From the sequence of events, they were all in on the deal to defraud Nigeria. Senior lawyers in silk robes, government officials, were all in collusion with an international syndicate of fraudsters to defraud our fatherland.

As the Judge noted, the court is not sold on Shasore’s explanation. And I agree because it makes no sense. Shasore’s explanation would have been laughable if it weren’t so deadly serious and goes to the heart of corrupting the entire arbitral process and award. The attempt by Shasore to mislead the London Court as to the true purposes of the huge monetary payments, or “gifts”, as he claimed, paid to government officials became the corruptive predicate that established a prima facie case that the entire arbitral process was tainted. The defence that the payments or “gifts” may have just been coincidence of occurrence is not just implausible; it proved unavailing to Sharore in the circumstance, considering the probative weight of evidence established by the court against him.

He was one of those with dual loyalty, purportedly working for Nigeria and at the same time working against Nigeria’s interest. It’s a cruel revelation that makes me nauseous that someone of such high public standing has been caught in an epic misconduct by a court of law and referred to in such unflattering terms. Someone many, including me, I dare say, had begun to see as an inspiring figure.

You see, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion reached by the court about Shasore’s conduct. Indeed, his conduct is questionable and requires criminal investigation and prosecution. But as a first step, the judgment of the London Court should be referred to the Legal Practitioners’ Disciplinary Committee, LPDC, of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, to commence the process to debar him. In consonance, the Legal Practitioners’ and Privileges Committee, LPPC, should also withdraw Shasore’s SANship or suspend it immediately. Going by court records, he is unfit to wear the exalted robes as a senior lawyer and mark of professional achievement.

The scripture says the love of money is the root of all evil. After being paid $2 million of taxpayers’ money by the government to defend its interest in the arbitration, Shasore betrayed his fatherland to “collude with P&ID” to undermine Nigeria and work against its interest. He defended Nigeria “thinly” without rigour and vigour or transparency, and the evidentiary basis needed to win.

It is curious that after his scathing indictment by the English Court, all he did was to issue a general statement on the outcome, claiming some sort of vindication for Nigeria’s win. He was however silent on the payments he made to public officials and what those payments were for. He was also silent on key pronouncements of the court that rip apart his professional integrity with the potential of him facing charges.

Here is a senior lawyer accused of professional misconduct, unethical behaviour by colluding with P&ID against his country, and pronounced dishonest by a sitting Judge.

If Shasore’s conduct, as identified by the court, does not amount to a serious and severe breach of professional ethics or malpractice warranting punishment by his professional body, I wonder what else does. And all he could do was to issue a banal statement that failed to address his weighty denouncement by the court?

Accusation of colluding with P&ID should have drawn a forceful rebuttal from Shasore if he wasn’t so guilty. Why was he silent on such potential career-ending accusations levelled against him in a court judgment? Or do words not carry meaning anymore? And why did he give those public servants such huge financial “gifts” and at whose behest? No one knows him to be that generous as to wake up one morning and just give people cash handouts. Shasore’s gifts came with intent to corrupt, as established by the court and he can’t run away from that.

That he was paid by Nigeria to defend Nigeria and was surreptitiously also working for P&ID for whatever pecuniary benefits derived or to be derived, in a case where the stakes were so high, with grave implications for the country smacks of the ultimate betrayal.

I cannot think of a conduct more forbidden than what Shasore has been accused of in that judgment.

There is no hope left that a good man still exists in this country. Clearly, our nightmare will not end in a miracle of a good man rising.

For those who don’t know, the P&ID case threatened the future of many unborn children.

When you are blinded by greed, how much does it take to see the light? To do this and still claim patriotism, then that person must have a very warped sense of what patriotism means.

It took some diligent, astute London lawyers and a judge with a discerning mind to dismantle the pyramid of lies and elaborate ponzi scheme to fleece our country. I am staggered by the precipitous impudence of the actors. Thankfully, their hopes of a merry payday have fallen like a pack of cards.

Collusions between “criminal” minded lawyers prosecuting cases and defence attorneys to frustrate convictions, particularly in cases involving politicians, high-profile individuals, illicit drug cases, money laundering, deliberate obstruction of justice, etc., are quite rampant here. Lawyers aiding and abetting forgery and even procuring death certificates for drug suspects which are presented in courts to defeat or abruptly bring an end to the trial of their clients, are equally widespread.

It will frighten you the extent these people go to frustrate the trial of their clients. The temple of justice is a marketplace where black market injunctions are traded by a syndicate of lawyers, judges, court clerks, bailiffs, the police or even governments at all levels. It’s a bizarre quest to frustrate the ends of justice. If that case was heard here, the judge would have been promised a share of the money to pass judgment against Nigeria!

I have often told my friends each time we ruminate about our country that the main problem with Nigeria lies with the people who populate this geographical space. It is the people who structured the country into this dysfunctional unworkable giant contraption, full of potential, short on progress.

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