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$308m Abacha Loot: Cable Foundation writes Malami, seeks details of payment to lawyers

$308m Abacha Loot: Cable Foundation writes Malami, seeks details of payment to lawyers
February 19
16:27 2020
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The Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation (CNJF) has written Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF), to request details of payment to lawyers who worked on the latest repatriation of over $308 million stolen by Sani Abacha, a former military ruler. 

Malami, on behalf of the federal government, recently signed an agreement with the governments of the Island of Jersey and the US for the repatriation of the money. 

The money had been recovered and frozen in 2013 under President Goodluck Jonathan but the repatriation process was stalled in 2015 following a lawsuit filed by the Abachas.

In the freedom of information (FoI) request sent to Malami on Wednesday, CNJF, a not-for-profit organisation that uses the vehicle of journalism to advance transparency and accountability in government, asked the AGF to provide the following details:

  • names of the lawyers/consultants hired for the repatriation job, since the recovery had been completed by Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer, before the Abachas went to stop the restitution to Nigeria
  • a breakdown of the amount approved and released for the lawyers
  • a copy of the proposal sent to the ministry of finance for the payment of the lawyers’ fees
  • information on the exact roles played by the lawyers. 

The foundation also sought to know what role Monfrini, hired by the federal government since 2000 for the recovery job, had played in this particular transaction for which he was already paid in 2014.

The request is in line with section 2(3) & (4) of the FoI act, 2011 which requires that files containing licences of agreement, memorandum of understanding (MoUs), information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution to be widely disseminated and more readily available. 

Malami is expected to provide the information within seven days as stipulated by the law. 

There was controversy over the $321 million earlier repatriated from Switzerland.

Malami had engaged Oladipo Okpeseyi and Temitope Adebayo, Nigerian lawyers, for the recovery of the sum.

But Monfrini told TheCable in a series of interviews that hiring the new lawyers was needless because he had already completed the task.

He said only a government-to-government communication was needed to complete the repatriation.

TheCable previously reported that the US had warned Nigeria that it would not entertain any private lawyers in the repatriation of the $308 million.

The foundation sued the AGF over his failure to respond to FoI request on the engagement of the lawyers, but the the court dismissed the suit saying the “foundation did not produce certified true copies (CTCs) of its registration documents”, saying photocopies were not acceptable.

The Nigerian lawyers were secretly paid $17 million by the federal government despite the outcry. 

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