Friday, September 20, 2019

Abacha Loot: Again, FG refuses to give information on ‘dubious’ $15m lawyers fee

Abacha Loot: Again, FG refuses to give information on ‘dubious’ $15m lawyers fee 
June 28
14:14 2019

The office of the attorney-general of the federation (AGF) and ministry of justice, has again refused to provide information on payment of lawyers hired for the recovery of Abacha Loot.  

Abubakar Malami, former AGF, had engaged Oladipo Okpeseyi and Temitope Adebayo, two Nigerian lawyers, for the recovery of $321 million Abacha Loot from Switzerland.

But Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer who had been on the recovery job since 2000, had told TheCable in a series of interviews that hiring of the new lawyers was needless as he had already completed the job

It’s over a year that the AGF has refused to respond to Cable Foundation’s freedom of information (FoI) request on details around the recovery.

A coalition of civil society organisations led by Say No Campaign has also written FoI request, asking for records of payment for the lawyers. 

In its response dated June 14, 2019, and signed by Hamza Omolara on behalf of the solicitor-general of the federation, the ministry said it won’t provide the information so it does not interfere with a pending litigation. 

Cable Foundation, in 2018, sued the AGF over non-compliance with the provisions of the FoI act, and after adjournments, the court, on Tuesday, eventually set September 23 to deliver judgment

“The requested records and information is subject of pending legal action before the Federal High Court, Abuja and the disclosure of which may likely interfere with the pending litigation,” the letter read. 

“Consequently, your application is hereby refused, in line with the provisions of Section 12 of the FoI Act, 2011 which mandates public institutions to deny applications for records and information that would interfere with pending law proceedings.” 

The FoI act, enacted 2011, allows the right of any person to access or request information, whether or not contained in any written form, which is in the custody or possession of any public official, agency or institution.

Sections 4 and 5 of the act provide that a public official or institution should grant access to a request for records or information within a time limit of seven days.

The institution is given three days within which it should transfer the request to another institution if it finds that it is in possession of the information under request.

TheCable had reported how the probe of the lawyers’ fee has been frustrated by the AGF. Malami refused to provide the documents requested by the house of representatives ad-hoc committee set up to investigate the matter.

Despite outcry, the federal government, in May, secretly paid the lawyers $15 million.


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