Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation (CNJF), a not-for-profit organisation, has sent a Freedom of Information request to Kemi Adeosun, Nigeria’s Minister of Finance, on the payment to lawyers in the recovery of $321 million Abacha loot from Luxembourg — as part of its contributions to President Muhammadu Buhari's war against corruption
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had engaged two Nigerian lawyers, Oladipo Okpeseyi and Temitope Isaac Adebayo, for the recovery after the money was returned to Nigeria with $1.5 million interest by the Swiss government.
However, TheCable online newspaper, a partner organisation to Cable Foundation, reported that Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer, had done all the legal work and completed all the recoveries for which he had been paid in full by the Goodluck Jonathan administration as far back as 2014.
According to a statement by Mrs Abiose Adelaja Adams, Programme officer, CNJF, Monfrini denied allegations that he was asking for extra payment to complete the job, maintaining that the recovery had been finalised and all that was left was for Malami to write a simple letter to the Swiss Government. However, Malami still engaged the services of two lawyers for a fee of $16.9 million (about N7 billion).
CNJF had sent an FoI request to Malami to make available copies of the agreements signed with Monfrini, but the Attorney-General did not respond to the request. Cable Foundation’s lawyers, Kusamotu & Kusamotu, are now in court seeking an order of mandamus to compel the AGF to make the documents available in line with public interest.
In the FoI request to Adeosun, the Cable Foundation is seeking a breakdown of the amount approved and released for the Nigerian lawyers between the time they were appointed and today, as well as records showing payment timeline for the services of the Swiss lawyer.
This request is in line with Sections 2(3) & (4) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011 which require all “information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution” to be “widely disseminated and more readily available”.
“We are trying to help President Muhammadu Buhari in his war against corruption,” Mrs Abiose Adelaja Adams, the programme officer of CNJF, said, in a statement on Thursday.
The House of Representatives has set up an ad-hoc committee to probe the payments to lawyers.
TheCable also reported earlier in the year that the American Government has told Buhari it would not entertain the involvement of private lawyers in the return of another $500 million Abacha loot, which was domiciled with the US Department of Justice in 2014 after the recoveries by the Jonathan administration.
The US government would only deal with Nigeria on a government-to-government basis, TheCable reported.