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EFCC probe: Law firm speaks on asset recovery contract, says ‘AGF told us to trace, recover’

EFCC probe: Law firm speaks on asset recovery contract, says ‘AGF told us to trace, recover’
August 07
22:07 2022

M.E. Sherriff & Co, a law firm contracted to trace and recover some properties belonging to the federal government, has denied sale of the assets.

Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF), had reportedly secretly granted a company and its attorneys a multibillion-naira asset recovery contract.

The AGF was said to have given the firm, Gerry Ikputu & Partners, an estate valuer, the task of recovering significant tracts of lands and structures believed to belong to the federal government in 10 states and the federal capital territory (FCT).

Meanwhile, Gerry Ikputu & Partners also hired a legal firm, M.E. Sheriff & Co, to act as its agent.

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A confidentiality agreement relating to the contract, is said to prohibit the firm from disclosing the specifics of the job, while they would also be entitled to three percent of the value of each successful recovery.

TheCable had recently reported that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) grilled Ladidi Mohammed, head of asset recovery and management unit, ministry of justice, over allegations of fraudulent sale of recovered assets worth billions.

She reportedly told EFCC that she acted under “verbal” ministerial instructions in disposing of some assets, which were forfeited to the federal government by persons undergoing corruption trials.

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Speaking on Sunday at a media briefing, Mohammed Sheriff, the principal partner of M.E. Sherriff & Co, said the recovered assets had not been disposed off, and that his company had no dealings with the asset recovery and management unit.

Sherriff said his firm was yet to be paid for its services since none of the recovered assets has been sold, and that one of the affected properties, located on Osborne road, Ikoyi, Lagos, was unlawful occupied by a company after the expiration of its lease agreement.

He said according to Malami’s instruction, his firm successfully secured an order of final forfeiture on the affected property, which was granted by Inyang Ekwo, a judge of the federal high court in Abuja.

“We did not even know that there is an asset recovery management unit. Our involvement was in relation to the tracing and recovery of abandoned federal government properties that were being occupied illegally, based on the presentation by some people, who approached our firm,” he said.

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“We got the instruction of the AGF to trace and recover those assets on the understanding that we would be entitled to three percent of the proceeds of sale.

“On the 8th day of October, 2021, the federal government of Nigeria granted the request of the firm of Jerry Ikputu & Partners to trace, recover and submit the abandoned federal government properties in 11 states of federation.

“Further to the above, on the 16th November, 2021, honourable justice I.E. Ekwo of the federal high court of Abuja granted the reliefs of M.E. Sheriff of M.E. Sheriff & Co and forfeited temporarily, assets to the federal government of Nigeria — all assets as listed on the instruction letter referred above.

“The honourable justice I.E. Ekwo also ordered the federal government to make a publication of the said temporary forfeiture inviting all persons/bodies to, within 14 days of the order, show cause why order of final forfeiture should not be made forfeiting the properties to the federal republic of Nigeria.

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“The federal government, by way of complying with the court’s order, made a publication in The Punch newspaper of the 18th day of November, 2021, specifically on page 34.

“The court, after giving members of the public opportunity to express interest in any of the federal government [properties], and the fact that no individual laid any claim, granted a final forfeiture in favour of the federal government of Nigeria on the 31st January, 2022.”

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Sheriff also challenged anyone who had proof of the claim that its firm was involved in the sale of forfeited assets to “present a petition to the office of the honourable attorney-general of the federation or Economic and Financial Crimes Commission”.

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