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Priti Patel, Nigerian Immigration and the world’s largest arbitration

Looking at British political history over the last sixty or so years, one would be hard pressed to find a more persistently contentious issue.

Image by pakkalajuha / Pixabay
Image by pakkalajuha / Pixabay

Opinions expressed by Digital Journal contributors are their own.

Immigration. Looking at British political history over the last sixty or so years, one would be hard pressed to find a more persistently contentious issue. Even so, the last decade has seen immigration elevated to perhaps the defining debate of the 21st century.

From the introduction of Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ in 2012 to becoming arguably the central topic in the 2016 ‘Brexit’ referendum, who is welcome into the UK has become a source of endless discussion. 

The UK’s most recent immigration controversy, the ‘Rwanda Policy’, was one of former Home Secretary Priti Patel’s last efforts to tackle the crisis of illegal migrant crossings of the English Channel. Within the proposed plan, individuals identified by the British government as being illegal immigrants or asylum seekers would be relocated to Rwanda for processing, asylum, and resettlement. However, a last minute intervention from the European Court of Human Rights means the plan is yet to be enacted.

Whatever one’s personal thoughts on the best way to tackle immigration, the reality is that the number of people who want to resettle in the UK is unlikely to decrease anytime soon. The reasons why are worth exploring if we are to find solutions to the increasingly complex challenges presented by mass migration. 

Nigeria is an interesting place to start when exploring the reasons people migrate to the UK. Nigerians represent the largest group within the UK’s African population, and the 9th most common non-British nationality in the country. The reasons for this are diverse; the former British colony has a long history of migration into the UK dating back over 200 years.

But modern Nigeria is experiencing several challenges resulting in strong ‘push’ factors for migration. 

For example, many Nigerians have been forced to relocate due to unfavourable environmental conditions thanks to the impact of climate change. Severe floods have led to loss of lives, housing, and infrastructure, forcing many Nigerians to migrate to less disaster-prone areas – exacerbating many of the socio-economic factors that lead to increased emigration.

The problem is only going to get worse – Nigeria is likely to experience higher rising temperatures, heavy rainfall, flooding, and coastal erosion in the near future.

Security concerns are another key reason for the migration and displacement of Nigerians. The actions of terror organisation Boko Haram in the North East of the country have caused large scale displacement, with the camps set up to house people who have been forced to leave their homes often rife with sexual assault and exploitation, corruption, and profiling.

However, perhaps the most prevalent reason for migration out of Nigeria has been the economic situation in the country. Decades of financial mismanagement, corruption, and opportunism have negatively impacted the opportunities available to working Nigerians, causing political instability and hardship in the process. These conditions have led to the mass emigration of trained professionals, further weighing on  the country’s development – in turn worsening the country’s brain drain. 

Furthermore, according to the International Organisation for Migration, the majority of Nigerians attempting to relocate from Africa to Europe are young and eager to send money back to their families – indicating that the economic challenges in Nigeria are the root cause of emigration.

Whatever the reasons for migration from Nigeria into the UK, the UK government is keen to tackle illegal entry. Indeed, a deal struck between the UK and Nigeria by the Home Office in the May of 2022 to support legal emigration, tackle illegal immigration, and accelerate the removal of foreign criminals is already having an impact; on the 30th of June 2022, 13 foreign Nigerian nationals without a right to be in the UK were removed on a charter flight.

With this in mind, it is interesting to note that Priti Patel, the Home Secretary responsible for cracking down on illegal migration from Nigeria into the UK, has also intervened in a legal dispute which could lead to the further decimation of the Nigerian economy. 

Patel’s public backing of P&ID, an offshore vulture fund-backed company, has raised more than a few eyebrows over the years. In 2010, P&ID was granted a gas supply and processing agreement (GSPA) by the Nigerian government. The plan seemed sound; P&ID would supply the Nigerian grid with free natural gas and keep the proceeds from propane and butane sales for themselves. 

Two years later, with no land bought and no work  started on the plant, the Nigerian government cancelled the deal. P&ID immediately launched closed arbitration proceedings against Nigeria in London, arguing that the government had failed to uphold their end of the agreement. P&ID won, and Nigeria was ordered to pay USD$6.6 billion plus USD$1 million a day in interest for every day the award went unpaid.

That award is now nearing USD$11 billion. The possible loss of that much money would be challenging to a developed economy; for a developing economy like Nigeria, paying the award would be catastrophic. And yet the former UK Home Secretary has been among the most vocal supporters of P&ID’s case in the years since.

The London High Court has since ruled that Nigeria can challenge the arbitral award, with the presiding judge noting a strong prima facie case had been established that the original gas supply and processing agreement was procured by bribes paid to insiders as part of a larger scheme to defraud Nigeria.

The case will be heard before the High Court in London in January 2023. One can only hope that justice will be served.  

If not, the economic destruction wrought by P&ID will undoubtably lead to greater economic hardship in Nigeria, as well as an increase in both legal and illegal migration from Nigeria into the UK.

Saqib Malik
Written By

Saqib Malik is Director & Head Of Business Development of Prestige Perfections, a world-class service provider in the fields of well-known artist management and music production.

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