London — In January 2010, two Irish businessmen secured a 20-year contract to turn Nigeria's vast gas reserves into power. But the government never built a promised pipeline to feed gas to the processing plant, and their British Virgin Islands-registered company, Process and Industrial Developments (P&ID), never so much as put spade to soil on its planned site in a riverine corner of southeast Nigeria.

P&ID, founded by Michael Quinn and Brendan Cahill, says it hoped to provide gas to generate power for millions in one of the least electrified countries in the world. Instead, a little over two years later, the company began an arbitration action against Nigeria that accused the West African state of a breach of contract. In 2017, a panel of three arbitrators voted 2-1 to award P&ID the full sum of its claim for future profits tied to the original project: a stunning $6.6bn. With interest, the award has ballooned to almost $10bn, or a quarter of the foreign reserves of Africa’s ...

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