Muhammed Babandede, comptroller-general of the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), has disclosed how a company contracted by the federal government sought to seize the country’s assets through arbitration in the UK.
Babandede said the company tried to seize the building of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Continental Transfert Technique Limited, a member of the Contec Global group, is a technical partner to immigration on combined expatriate resident permit and alien card (CERPAC).
While appearing before the joint senate committee on finance and national planning on Wednesday, Babandede said all the revenue generated by his organisation goes to the treasury single account (TSA) except that from the CERPAC, of which CONTEC takes a larger share before the remainder is deposited into the coffers of the federal government.
The CG, who said “I don’t want to talk much”, told the committee that the company is taking a huge chunk of the revenue for “doing nothing”.
Babandede said NIS could do the job CONTEC is contracted for at a cheaper rate and this would in turn provide more revenue for the government.
“The agreement they signed between the ministry of interior and the company, we are implementing…. The agreement is that if someone, a non-Nigerian, buys a resident permit, the money is shared between CONTEC, interior. Initially, it (combined expatriate resident permit and alien card) was $1,000 and at that figure CONTEC collects 72 percent. Later, the ministry of interior changed the price to $2,000 and adjusted the payment model — CONTEC, 55 percent; federal government, 33 percent; immigration, 7 percent and ministry of interior 5 percent. The agreement was first signed in 2007 and it was reviewed last year (2019),” the comptroller-general said.
“The truth of the matter is that it was signed on our behalf and we have to implement it. This job (issuing resident permit), we can do it. It is not rocket science. This has been on for many years. This is a company that took Nigeria to court, to arbitration; it is a huge issue. I don’t want to discuss more because the ministry of justice and Mr President have taken it very seriously.
“If you see the amount the company is taking, you will be worried. There were several investigations by the senate, by the house; there are reports available if you want. I can get it for you or you can get it in the national assembly.
“Nobody should defend CONTEC as a company to do business in Nigeria. This is a company that took us to court; this is a company that wanted to seize our property, including our mission and NNPC building.
“Two thousand dollars for resident permit? We can make that resident permit with $500; $1,500 can go to the federal government. We throw away the company, and government will make more money.”
The comptroller-general did not reveal how the country has been able to manage the situation thus far and at what time CONTEC approached the arbitration court.
Meanwhile, in 2007, according to papers filed at the US court for the district of Columbia,” “CONTEC and Nigeria entered arbitration to resolve a contract dispute.”
“On August 14, 2008, the arbitrators issued their decision, awarding Continental 29.6 billion Nigerian naira. Nigeria was also ordered to pay Continental’s costs and 95% of the costs of arbitration,” the document reads.
In December 2008, CONTEC also sought for the arbitral award to be recognised in the UK and the “United Kingdom’s High Court of Justice (“the English court”) issued an order confirming the arbitral award as final and enforceable”.
In March 2020, following the upward review of the permit from $1,000 to $2,000 in 2018, a federal high court sitting in Lagos granted a stay of execution of its 2019 judgment which nullified the hike of the CERPAC fees.
There are mounting concerns over the agreements the country is entering into or has entered into.
Nigeria is currently struggling to escape a $9 billion judgement awarded by the UK arbitration court over a failed gas deal with Process and Industrial Development (P&ID).
The country is also faced with a $1.2 billion liability if it decides to pull out of an agreement with Azura Power.
Last month, the house of representatives raised the alarm over clauses conceding Nigeria’s sovereignty to China in a loan agreement.