Between 2013 and 2014, the federal government used the services of Enrico Monfrini and Christian Luscher, Swiss lawyers, to recover $321 million looted by Sani Abacha, late former head of state.
The funds, recovered from Luxembourg, were domiciled with the attorney-general of Switzerland.
The next step in completing the repatriation was for Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF), to write to the AG of Switzerland in a government-to-government transaction.
But, in what appeared a manipulation of the process, Malami, in 2016, about a year into the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, engaged two Nigerian lawyers, Oladipo Okpeseyi and Temitope Isaac Adebayo, to duplicate the job of the Swiss lawyers and get a cut of the already done deal.
Nigeria had undertaken to pay four percent of the recovered Luxembourg assets as professional fees and expenses to the Swiss lawyers, in addition to roughly $6.8 million in fees to be paid to Monfrini for the Liechtenstein recoveries.
Interestingly, the engagement of the new lawyers will further cede at least another four percent as commission and professional fees from the recovered funds.
TheCable had reported how Nigeria will be paying $17 million (about N7 billion) to the freshly engaged lawyers.
“I don’t know why the federal government of Nigeria decided to appoint other lawyers,” Monfrini who has been hired since 1999 to work on the recovery of the Abacha Loot told TheCable in an interview.
Repatriation, Monfrini said, “is a matter which is normally dealt between governments and which doesn’t entail the engagement of lawyers.”
In another interview with TheCable, Monfrini denied asking for an additional 20 percent to “complete the job” as reported in a syndicated article seeking to justify the duplication of Monfrini’s job by Malami.
“I never had the audacity to claim for additional fees. This figure of 20 % is simply invented,” he had said.
In the ongoing effort to ensure accountability on this recovery, below are five questions for AGF Malami.
1. WAS RECOVERED LOOT NOT ALREADY WITH THE SWISS AG?
By the time you engaged two lawyers for a fee of N7bn for the return of $312m recovered from Luxembourg, was the money not already domiciled with the Attorney-General of Switzerland?
2. WHAT DID YOUR NEW LAWYERS DO TO MERIT N7BN?
Swiss lawyer Enrico Monfrini told TheCable he had completed the job and had been paid his fees since 2014. What job did the new lawyers do to merit the N7bn fee?
3. WHERE’S PROOF SWISS LAWYER DEMANDED EXTRA PAY?
Your media spin master said Monfrini asked for additional 20% to “complete the job”, an allegation Monfrini has denied. Can you make his letter of demand public in the national interest?
4. WHY ARE YOU FRUSTRATING THE PROBE?
Why is your office not co-operating with the house of reps committee investigating this matter?
5. WHY DID YOU IGNORE THECABLE’S FOI REQUEST?
It has been over eight months since TheCable sent a freedom of information request to your office seeking clarity on this matter. Why have you refused to answer our simple questions?