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Published On: Fri, Apr 13th, 2018

Abacha loot: Reps ask Buhari to suspend N6bn payment to lawyers pending probe

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By Christiana Ekpa and Umar Muhammad Puma

The House of Representatives yesterday asked President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend the payment of six billion Naira or any part thereof, being demanded for by some Nigerian lawyers for recovery of Abacha loot pending investigation on the matter.
Recall 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 resolution of the Green Chamber was sequel to a motion sponsored by Mr Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue) at the Thursday plenary.
Presenting the lead debate, Mr. Gbillah revealed that Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, had curiously engaged the services of Oladipo Okpeseyi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and Temitope Adebayo for a fee of $16.9 Million (about N6 Billion), without due process in 2016.
He hinted further that both Lawyers 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 adding that the terms of the agreement reached with Mr. Mofrini for the recovery clearly spelt out that no other lawyer would be engaged for the return of the money to Nigeria.
According to Mr. Gbillah, 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 the issues of accountability around previous recoveries.
“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”, he said.
The lawmaker said it is noteworthy for the House to carry out investigation on whether the fund been demanded by these lawyers were supposed to be paid or not.
Contributing to the debate, Mr. NkemAbonta (PDP, Abia) supported that the House should investigate what the three lawyers have done to deserve the said amount been demanded for.
An adhoc committee was However set up to unravel the engagement circumstances of the Nigeria lawyers and whether due process was followed.
The adhoc committee is expected to report its findings to the House within six weeks for further legislative action.

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