How two Irish businessmen almost took over Nigeria for $11 billion


The next step was to develop a proposal for the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the department that oversees Nigeria’s considerable fossil fuel reserves. P.&I.D. would build the $500 million facility. Nigeria would transport wet gas at no cost to the company. Then P.&I.D. would process it and transport the lean gas at no cost to the country. But in exchange, the company would keep the valuable byproducts of the gas extraction process, like propane and butane, which it could sell at a profit. If Nigeria withdrew at any time before the end of the full 20-year term of the contract, it could be held liable for damages. Overall, this appears to be a huge commitment for Nigeria, one that may be met with skepticism when it finally meets the eyes of the ministry’s lawyers.

Around this time, a lawyer named Grace Taiga landed a new job at the ministry, as legal director. It was fortunate, because Quinn and Cahill had known Taiga for years, since she was at the Department of Defense, and they were businessmen who occasionally won contracts with that department. For about a year before P.&I.D.’s proposal was submitted, Quinn and Cahill sent Taiga and one of her daughters just over $25,000 in additional payments. Quinn also took Taiga’s colleague, a ministry employee named Taofiq Tijani, to dinner at Chopsticks, a Chinese restaurant in Abuja. The cost of this dinner was recorded in the accounting books as $2,800. (A Chinese dinner doesn’t cost $2,800 in Abuja.) Then, shortly before the contract was signed, Cahill sent another $5,000 from a bank in Cyprus to Taiga’s daughter’s account, which was coded as a “commission payment”.

Taiga sent the contract to his boss, Rilwanu Lukman, the minister of petroleum resources. It wasn’t much: 20 pages, mostly in boilerplate language, written on the department’s green-bordered stationery. It was more of a sketch than a fully developed proposal for a multimillion-dollar gas deal. But Taiga assured Lukman in a note that it would be “a quantum leap” for Nigeria. On January 11, 2010, Lukman, Quinn and Taiga signed their names. The deal was done.

A few days later, a man named Neil Hitchcock – P.&I.D.’s only full-time employee. — wrote to Cahill saying he needed $1.5 million to begin clearing land for the facility. But P.&I.D. didn’t have $1.5 million. The plan was to raise capital for the project based on the signed 20-year contract and then recruit engineers and workers. This was how they had always operated in Nigeria.

In June, Quinn opened his morning paper to an unwelcome twist. The oil drilling company to which Nigeria had promised to supply the wet gas decided to keep it; the gas proved useful in maintaining pressure inside wells. Quinn might have picked up the phone and protested to his friends in government, but most of them were gone. A new president recently took office. Lukman had been replaced. In February 2011, Hitchcock sent a text message suggesting the company was in dire straits. “Given the rapidly deteriorating situation here, I see no other choice than to liquidate certain P.&I.D. companies. active,” he wrote. “With your approval, I offer to sell the Honda Civic.” Quinn emailed the new president, Goodluck Jonathan, but his appeal went nowhere.


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