Abacha Loot: AGF Malami frustrates probe of $17m lawyers’ fee

Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF), has resorted to delay tactics to frustrate house of representatives’ investigation of the $17 million lawyers’ fee for the recovery of $321 million Abacha loot, TheCable has gathered. 

Apart from refusing to provide the documents requested by the ad-hoc committee set up by the house, Malami has also decided to use the courts to stall the probe.

A senior official in the ministry of justice told TheCable at the weekend that the minister plans to file a libel suit against this newspaper as part of his overall strategy.

“We will file a suit against you guys, and then inform the house committee that the case is already in court and therefore subjudicel for the committee to continue with its probe,” the official said.

Malami adopted a similar tactic in the probe of the recall of Abdulrasheed Maina, the former chairman of the Pensions Task Force.

He went to court to stop legislative inquiry into the saga, although the committee still went ahead and indicted him.

‘HEIGHT OF INJUSTICE’

TheCable had in April reported how Kemi Adeosun, minister of finance, refused to approve the payment of the dubious fee to the lawyers.

The lawmakers described Malami’s engagement of the lawyers as “height of injustice” and set up a committee to probe the matter.

Enrico Monfrini, the Swiss lawyer hired by the Nigerian government since 1999 for the recovery of the loot, told TheCable that repatriation is dealt between governments and does not entail the engagement of lawyers.

But Malami had engaged Oladipo Okpeseyi, a senior advocate, and Temitope Adebayo, two Nigerian lawyers to do a job that had already been completed by Monfrini.

“I don’t know why the federal government of Nigeria did decide to appoint other lawyers,” Monfrini, who had recovered the funds from Luxembourg and domiciled them with the attorney-general of Switzerland, told TheCable in an interview.

Incidentally, Okpeseyi and Adebayo were lawyers to the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the legacy party of President Muhammadu Buhari. Malami was legal adviser to CPC.

FRUSTRATING TACTICS

“Of course, the AGF is trying to frustrate the investigation,” a source at the national assembly told TheCable.

“From the look of things, they are not happy with the committee. They are not happy the committee was constituted.”

The committee had reached out to the justice and finance ministries, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), accountant general of the federation and the Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation (CNJF), a partner organisation with TheCable.

While the ministry of finance is yet to submit its report as requested by the lawmakers, the report from the ministry of justice and AGF was rejected because it was not signed by Malami.

“Their report was not properly submitted,” another source within the national assembly told TheCable.

“The submission was not addressed to the chairman of the committee. It was a photocopied document, and didn’t carry the signature of the AGF. Somebody just brought photocopied documents and rushed out, saying he was in a hurry. There is no how the committee can work with such documents.

“When you are asked to bring something, officially, by a constituted authority and you are putting lackadaisical attitude towards that request, it is like you are not happy with the whole thing.”

The committee had given the AGF May 30 to make a “proper submission” but TheCable understands the committee is yet to hear from the AGF.

“We hope they respond before members come back from break,” the source said.

‘NOT READY TO MAKE COMMENTS’

The ministry of justice and the office of the AGF is yet to respond to TheCable’s email asking why the office submitted documents that were not signed by the AGF.

Malami did not answer calls placed to his telephone.

However, he responded to an email enquiry saying: “I am not ready to make any comments on my private email over the matter.”

CNJF had earlier requested from the AGF a copy of the agreement signed with Swiss lawyers for the recovery of the loot.

The AGF did not respond to the freedom of information request, and CNJF had gone to court, seeking an order of mandamus compelling the AGF to make available the information and documents requested from its office pursuant to the freedom of information (FoI) act, 2011.

When contacted for reaction, Abdulrazak Namdas, spokesman of the house of representatives, said he would get back to the TheCable.