Nigeria: UK judge rules Shasore not corrupt

Olasupo Shasore, a lawyer for the Nigerian government, has been cleared of corruption charges in the case brought by Nigeria against the engineering and project management company Process & Industrial Developments (P&ID).

On 23 October, Justice Robin Knowles of the Commercial Court of England and Wales said that with the evidence produced before him, Shasore, 59, a former attorney general of Lagos State, had not “in my judgement, been shown to be corrupt”.

P&ID had obtained a $6.6 billion judgement against the Nigerian government in 2017 at a private arbitration tribunal. The firm accused the government of failing to honour a contract it signed with P&ID in 2010 for a gas processing plant in the South-South state of Cross River.

With interest added to the outstanding amount at the tribunal’s verdict, the judgement sum against the Nigerian government ballooned to $11 billion.

The government challenged the decision, arguing that P&ID obtained the contract through dishonest means.

Additionally, the government argued that the engineering company bribed its own lawyers – Shasore being one of them – in the course of their arbitration.

According to the government, Shasore, Nigeria’s lead lawyer in the arbitration, colluded with two other lawyers whom he bribed with $100,000 apiece to ensure that billons of dollars were awarded to P&ID.

In 2022, Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission arraigned Shasore before a federal court in Lagos over allegations of money laundering. The government arraigned the lawyer and his company, Middlesex Investments Ltd, before a state court over further money-laundering charges.

Shasore denies any wrongdoing.

The government’s allegations ignited a public outcry against Shasore with accusations that he was unpatriotic. Local newspaper PM News wrote that he ‘betrayed Nigeria’s trust and let down his nation…’.

In a statement he released at the height of the personal attacks, Shasore insisted that he represented Nigeria in the arbitration to the best of his ability. He said he did so ‘with very few tools and with minimal support from within the government itself’.

Not guilty

Justice Knowles in his judgement on Monday dismissed P&ID’s $11 billion damages.

He, however, maintained that Shasore’s actions during the arbitration were inconsistent with the Nigerian government’s theory that he worked against its interest.

“First, his advice to Nigeria to investigate, and allow expert evidence to be obtained, and to proceed in a timely fashion, was sound and constant,” the judge said.

“Second, he assisted Nigeria to succeed in its applications to the Nigerian court. Third, his participation in the various settlement discussions helped reduce the figures.”

The judge also said that a review of the transcript of the hearing on liability showed “robust challenges” of P&ID by Shasore and that it was impossible not to observe the lawyer’s attempts to secure an outcome favourable to Nigeria.

“On the other hand, the account given in this judgement shows that responsibility for failures to obtain evidence and to avoid delay lay rather with many ministers and officials, whom Mr Shasore SAN and others pressed repeatedly.”

‘Leaking government documents’

The Nigerian government had also accused Shasore of colluding with lawyer Ovie Ukiri to leak the government’s internal legal documents to P&ID. The government alleged that Shasore made a “corrupt payment” of $300,000 to Ukiri to act as his conduit in leaking the documents.

Ukiri is Shasore’s long-term associate. They were partners at Ukiri & Shasore throughout the 1990s until the firm’s merger with Ajumogobia, Okeke, Oyebode & Aluko. The duo, alongside Olufemi Lijadu, left the merger in 2017 to establish USL – Ukiri, Shasore & Lijadu.

Justice Knowles said there was no evidence of collusion between Shasore and Ukiri before him and that the former’s payment to the latter was one from one partner to another in legal practice.

“Nothing links Mr Ukiri’s email with the payment, or shows why Shasore SAN should go about things in this way if he was behind P&ID receiving copies of Nigeria’s internal legal documents,” he said.

The judge noted that the Nigerian government itself did not believe that Shasore was corrupt.

In 2017, the government engaged Shasore to represent the Ministry of Power in a $2.4 billion arbitration claim. Three years later, the government hired Shasore for a second arbitration with an agreed fee of $1 million.

Justice Knowles said that Nigeria’s attorney-general, Abubakar Malami, had “not explained to this court how these events are consistent with a belief on his and Nigeria’s part that Mr Shasore SAN had been corrupt, in his professional work for Nigeria in the arbitration against P&ID”.

Once touted as Governor Babatunde Fashola’s successor in Lagos, Shasore served as the state’s attorney-general and commissioner for justice between 2007 and 2011.

When Lagos’s former governor – now president – Bola Tinubu preferred Akinwunmi Ambode to succeed Fashola in 2015, however, this put paid to Shasore’s dream.

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