Another $1b judgment debt hangs on FG over sale of Nitel —Akintola

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and core litigation lawyer, Chief Niyi Akintola, has revealed that another one billion dollar judgment hangs over the country  Akintola, therefore told the Federal Government to brace up for more judgment debts already entered against the country on account of contracts awarded but were later cancelled.

Akintola, who is a senior member in the rank of the silks, spoke on Saturday against the backdrop of the $9.6 billion judgment debt hanging over the country in a case instituted by P&ID against the Federal Government, while featuring on Fresh FM radio’s Political Circuit, a live interview programme monitored in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.

He revealed that a $237 million judgment was entered against Nigeria by an arbitration panel in the United Kingdom in 2003 in a case brought before it by an Ibadan-born entrepreneurial icon, Chief Bode Akindele, against the Federal Government over the cancellation of the contract for the purchase of the defunct Nigeria Telecommunication (NITEL).

Chief Akindele, according to Akintola, who described Nigeria as “a country where anything goes” successfully bought NITEL from the Federal Government for a sum of $237million and paid one third of the sum.

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He explained that Akindele’s refusal to “play ball” and part with some shareholding for some interests in government at that time led to the contract being called off for no justifiable reason, prompting the legal battle before the arbitration panel.

Akintola said further that accumulation of interest since 2003 when the judgment was given would have shot the debt up to about $1 or $2 billion.

“We are shouting about judgment debt from P&ID, more judgment debts are coming. Our own Chief Bode Akindele bought NITEL in 2003 for $237million and he paid one third of the sum. But somewhere along the line, the contract was aborted because he was not ready ‘to play ball’ with the powers-that-be at that time.

“He was not ready to part with some of the shares and so the contract was taken away from him. He went to the arbitration tribunal. Late Justice Kayode Eso was one of the judges on the arbitration panel.

“As I speak with you, judgment has been obtained against Nigeria to the tune of $237 million since 2003 and interest has been mounting. If you do the calculation now, it would have been more than $1 or $2 billion. So, more debts are coming for Nigeria.

“Nigeria is a country where anything goes. 98 per cent of the contracts we sign in Nigeria have arbitration clauses and these clauses, our civil servants do not read them. When they are signing, they stay in a hotel and are only interested in the estacode they will get during such trips.

“In fact, one of the ministers that just left was dubbed estacode minister because that is what he was dong as minister. Also, they don’t read.

“We have a chapter of the arbitration chapter of the UK in Nigeria and even in Ibadan. If my calculation is correct, there are about 23 international arbitrators of Oyo State origin. I don’t know of any governor in Oyo that has called any of us to vet contracts. In fact, the president of the Nigerian chapter of the International Arbitration of the UK is from Ibadan, Mrs Doyin Rhodes. She sits at the apex of the world body and she is a daughter of the Ekerin Olubadan,” he said.

He advised the Federal Government to tread softly in its contractual and other engagements with China, explaining that African countries were not finding it easy repaying their indebtedness to the Asian country.

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