Buhari, who was inaugurated for a second term on May 29, has not yet appointed cabinet ministers, and officials contacted by Reuters said the lack of an attorney general or petroleum minister made it difficult for anyone to comment on the record.
“This is a problem that the Nigerians are not facing up to in any serious way,” said Andrew Stafford, Q.C. of Kobre & Kim LLP, which is representing P&ID.
Experts said it would be difficult for Nigeria to fully extricate itself.
“Under UK legislation, state immunity does not operate to protect a sovereign state where it has entered into an arbitration agreement,” said Simon Sloane, a partner with UK law firm Fieldfisher.
He added that going after state assets following arbitration had become a well-trodden path over the past 15 years and it would be difficult for Nigeria to avoid paying compensation.
While assets that are used for diplomatic purposes – such as the Nigerian High Commission building in central London – were off the table, commercial assets were up for grabs.
In 2008, a UK court ruled that proceeds of oil sales from Chad held in an international account intended to repay World Bank loans were fair game for seizure.
Experts also said that the involvement of hedge fund VR Group, which has a stake in P&ID, signalled that it is unlikely to let the issue drop.
“They could still come to a settlement,” Sloane said. “As it’s a consensual process the parties can agree to settle, and settle for significantly below the $9 billion figure.”