House of Reps investigates Malami over $17m legal fees for “Abacha Loot”

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Coming on the heels of revelations by an online newspaper that Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, has resisted alleged plans by the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, to get $16.9 million released to two lawyers for the return of $321 million “Abacha loot, after the government had paid a Swiss lawyer, the House of Representatives has initiated its own investigations into the messy affair.

But the House has requested President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend the payment of the controversial legal fee of $16.9 million (about N6 billion).

In a motion brought by Hon. Mark Terseer Gbilliah, it was disclosed that Mr Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss Lawyer was engaged by the Nigerian Government since 1999 to work on recovering the Abacha Loot for which the sum of $321 million was a part and had finished the Luxembourg leg of the job since 2014 when Mohammed Bello Adoke was the Attorney-General of the Federation;

The motion adds that Mr Mofrini was 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 the issues of accountability around previous recoveries;

The motion stated that 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;

In addition, the motion says Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, allegedly “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 $16.9 Million (about N6 Billion), without due process.”

Both lawyers, the motion revealed, had worked for President Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a legacy party of the All Progressive Congress (APC) when Malami was the legal adviser of CPC

Commenting during the debate proper, Hon. Gbillah stated that the recovery of the Abacha loot used to be shrouded in secrecy, but revelations have shown that the process is in danger of breaching the contract terms and abuse of due process in recruiting the second set of lawyers to conduct a job already done and completed.

Another lawmaker, Hon. Nkem Abonta, noted that if indeed the newly contracted lawyers actually worked with Abubakar Malami in another capacity earlier, it would indeed be a breach of contract.

Hon. Rita Orji stated that the House needs to investigate the alleged breach of appropriation process in release of public funds for consulting lawyers with such huge sums of money without having it appropriated for.

Following the debate, the House resolved to set up an Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the engagement of Nigerian lawyers when the actual work had been concluded by Mr Enrico Monfrini, and was paid by the Nigerian government

It is also to find out whether due process was followed and to report back within six weeks for further legislative action.

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