Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation (CNJF), a not-for-profit media organisation, has asked Kemi Adeosun, the minister of finance, to explain the N7bn payment to Nigerian lawyers over the return of $321 million Abacha Loot recovered from Luxembourg.
In a Freedom of Information request, the foundation wants to be furnished with a breakdown of the amount approved and released for the lawyers since they were appointed in 2016, in addition to records showing payment timeline for the services of the Swiss lawyer, Enrico Monfrini, who completed the recoveries in 2014.
The attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami, had engaged two Nigerian lawyers, Oladipo Okpeseyi and Temitope Isaac Adebayo, for the recovery after the money was returned to Nigeria with $1.5 million interest by the Swiss government.
However, TheCable , a partner organisation to Cable Foundation, reported that Monfrini, the Swiss lawyer, had done all the legal work and completed all the recoveries for which he had been paid in full by the Goodluck Jonathan administration as far back as 2014.
Monfrini denied allegations that he was asking for extra payment to complete the job, maintaining that the recovery had been finalised and all that was left was for Malami to write a simple letter to the Swiss government.
However, Malami still engaged the services of the two lawyers for a fee $16.9 million (about N7 billion).
CNJF had sent an FoI to Malami to make available copies of the agreements signed with Monfrini, but the attorney-general did not respond to the request. Cable Foundation’s lawyers, Kusamotu & Kusamotu, are now in court seeking an order of mandamus to compel the AGF to make the documents available in line with public interest.
The FoI request to Adeosun is in line with Sections 2(3) & (4) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 which require all “information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution” to be “widely disseminated and more readily available.”
“We are trying to help President Muhammadu Buhari in his war against corruption,” Mrs Abiose Adelaja Adams, the programme officer of CNJF, said in a statement.
The house of representatives has set up an ad-hoc committee to probe the payments to lawyers.
TheCable also reported earlier in the year that the American government has told Buhari it would not entertain the involvement of private lawyers in the return of another $500 million Abacha Loot which was domiciled with the US Department of Justice in 2014 after the recoveries by the Jonathan administration.
The US government would only deal with Nigeria on a government-to-government basis, TheCable reported.