Abacha loot: Reps probe Malami over $17m fee

The House of Representatives yesterday resolved to probe proposed payment of $16.9 million fee to some Nigerian lawyers by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).

The House said there was no reason for the payment when the work had already been done by a foreign lawyer.

Members of the House requested President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend payment of the said fee or any part thereof pending investigation on the matter.

Deliberating on a motion by Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue), the House said Mr Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer was engaged by the Nigerian government since 1999 to work on recovering ‘Abacha loot’ for which the sum of $321 million was a part and had finished the Luxembourg leg of the job in 2014.

The House noted that Mr Mofrini had since been paid by the Federal Government for his legal services for the recovery of the money, which was then domiciled with the Attorney-General of Switzerland, pending the signing of an MoU with Nigeria to avoid issues of accountability around previous recoveries.

The lawmakers said all that was left was the signing of the MoU, which is a government-to-government communication for the money to be repatriated to Nigeria.

The House said, Malami “had curiously engaged the services of another set of Nigerian lawyers in 2016, namely, Oladipo Okpeseyi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and Temitope Adebayo for a fee of $16.9m (about N6 billion), without due process.”

The House recalled that both lawyers had worked for President Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a legacy party of the All Progressives Congress (APC) when Malami was the legal adviser of CPC.

The House therefore resolved to constitute an ad-hoc committee to investigate circumstances surrounding the engagement of the lawyers for a fee of $16.9 million, when the actual work had been concluded.

The panel is to ascertain whether due process was followed and to report back within six weeks for further legislative action.