By Grace Chigbu
LONDON – In a significant turn of events, the Royal Court of Justice in London declared on Monday that former Lagos State Commissioner of Justice, Olasupo Shasore, was wrongly accused by the Nigerian government of corruption in the prolonged arbitration between the country and Process & Industrial Development Limited (P&ID).
For several years, Mr. Shasore, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), was under scrutiny, with accusations from the Nigerian government that he deliberately underrepresented the country’s interests and pushed for a settlement in the UK litigation. The government further alleged that Mr. Shasore accepted bribes from P&ID, compromising Nigeria’s position and was privy to the leak of the country’s internal legal documents.
These allegations painted him as a counsel betraying his country in an arbitration that almost equated to half of Nigeria’s 2023 budget. Consequently, he faced charges in a Nigerian court.
However, delivering a verdict that spared Nigeria from paying $11 billion to P&ID, High Court Judge Robin Knowles declared that Mr. Shasore’s actions throughout the arbitration revealed no evidence of corruption or compromise on his part. “Mr. Shasore SAN has not, in my judgement, been shown to be corrupt. His actions are inconsistent with Nigeria’s theory that he was,” affirmed the judge.
Knowles supported his declaration, stating that Mr. Shasore consistently advised Nigeria to carry out investigations, obtain expert testimonies, and move promptly. Additionally, a detailed review of hearing transcripts showed Mr. Shasore staunchly challenging P&ID in favor of Nigeria. The judge rather redirected blame towards Nigerian officials who failed to act despite Mr. Shasore’s persistent appeals.
Interestingly, the judge emphasized that if Nigeria genuinely believed Mr. Shasore was corrupt, he wouldn’t have been reappointed to represent the country in subsequent arbitrations.
Furthermore, the court found no substantial evidence against other Nigerian lawyers, including Ibrahim Dikko, Hafsat Belgore, Folakemi Adelore, and Ikechukwu Oguine, who were also under suspicion.
This long-standing case traces back to 2012 when P&ID accused Nigeria of not fulfilling their Gas Supply Purchasing Agreement (GSPA) from 2010. The contract entailed P&ID establishing and managing a gas development project, with Nigeria supplying gas for refining. However, when Nigeria reportedly breached this contract, it led to an arbitration spanning over a decade.
Nigeria’s former Attorney General, Mohammed Adoke, had appointed Mr. Shasore in 2014 to lead the country’s representation in the early stages of this arbitration. Despite P&ID winning the case in 2017, with Nigeria being ordered to pay $6.6 billion plus accrued interest, the government remained adamant that Mr. Shasore and his team were in cahoots with P&ID.
In the light of these accusations, the EFCC had charged him with money laundering last year, to which he pleaded not guilty. The future of this trial remains uncertain given the recent British court ruling.