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Malami silent on $1.5bn demand by ‘debt collectors’ but says he doesn’t own firm

Malami silent on $1.5bn demand by ‘debt collectors’ but says he doesn’t own firm
May 22
17:01 2020
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Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation, says he does not own the firm engaged by his office to recover “oil profits” from international oil firms.

Little-known Trobell International Limited, an engineering firm, had been engaged by Malami in April 2018 to help recover the estimated $43 billion unpaid “oil profits” from multinational companies at a commission of five percent — or $2.15 billion.

TheCable had reported how President Muhammadu Buhari asked Malami to disengage the firm because the job can be done by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) without any commission being paid.

TheCable also reported that Trobell is demanding $1,501,539,032 from the federal government over the suspension of the contract.

Although Malami did not deny the story, he said he does not own the firm — a claim TheCable never made in the report.

In a statement signed by Umar Gwandu, AGF’s spokesperson, Malami said engagement of debt recovery agents carried out by his office was done based on the interest of the nation and not his personal sentiments.

“Malami in his personal capacity does not have personal ‘debt collectors’ for the recovery of federal government debts,” Gwandu said.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the office of the attorney general and minister of justice does not engage recovery agents based on projected personal gratification or individual’s inclinations.

“Hence, all those engaged by the federal government for undertaking certain tasks in the recovery of assets and generation of revenues belonging to the government did not belong to ‘Malami’ as mischievously portrayed by some certain media outlets but federal government of Nigeria through the instrumentality of the office of the attorney general of the federation and minister of justice.

“Such engagements were purely based on the interest of the general public as a guiding principle.

“The Minister reiterated his stance that engagement of recovery agents was neither propelled by any ulterior motive nor about gratification of any personal desire through any percentage to be given to or by the recovery agent, but of an unflinching patriotic commitment to get back to the country the revenue it deserves.

“It is the same federal government that engaged the Trobell in the recovery of the unpaid federal government revenue that asked the agency to step down based on the stakeholders meeting held.”

Nigeria had, in 1993, signed production contracts with oil companies to explore deep offshore and inland basins, before changing the agreements to production sharing contracts (PSCs) in 1999.

Under various incentives in the novel arrangement, the “profits” payable to the federation were to be reviewed upwards whenever crude oil hit the $20 per barrel mark or after a number of years.

However, these triggers were never activated and after years of campaign, the federal government decided in 2018 to engage Trobell as “recovery agents” on the “additional revenue from profit oil due to the federation from PSCs”.

On the other hand, the attorneys-general of Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Bayelsa states had, in 2016, filed a suit against the AGF at the supreme court and sought to compel the Federal Government of Nigeria to review the PSC Act to recover arrears of revenue which would have accrued to the federation over the years.

On October 17, 2018, the supreme court gave a consent judgment following terms of settlement arrived at by all parties on April 5, 2018.

Federal government has now suspended the entire recovery process.

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