Nigeria: Abacha Loot - Reps Probe Payment of $17m to Nigerian Lawyers

Photo: Vanguard
Abacha's loot.
13 April 2018

The House of Representatives yesterday resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the engagement of two Nigerian lawyers, Oladipo Okpeseyi, (SAN), and Temitope Adebayo for a fee of $16.9 million, which amounts to about N6 billion.

The House also requested that President Muhammadu Buhari, should suspend the payment of the said fee of $16.9 million, pending investigation on the matter.

The member representing Gwer East/Gwer West federal constituency of Benue State, Hon. Mark Terseer Gbilla, in a motion titled "Need to Investigate the Proposed Payment of $17million to lawyers by the Attorney General of the Federation for Recovery of 'Abacha Loot,' noted that one Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer was engaged by the Nigerian government since 1999 to work on recovering the Abacha Loot.

According to the motion, the sum of $321 million was a part of the negotiation and the Swiss Lawyer had finished the Luxembourg leg of the job since 2014 when Mohammed Bello Adoke was the Attorney-General of the Federation.

Gbillah while presenting his motion, alleged that the minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, had curiously engaged the services of another set of Nigerian lawyers in 2016, without due process.

He also revealed 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.

Gbillah stated that the actual work had been concluded by Mr Enrico Monfrini, and was paid by the Nigerian government for the recovery of the sum of $321 million, part of the Abacha loot from Luxembourg.

According to the motion, the terms of the agreement reached with Mr. Monfrini for the recovery clearly spelt out that no other lawyer would be engaged for the return of the money to Nigeria; "That Mr Monfrini 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 memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Nigeria to avoid the issues of accountability around previous recoveries," he said.

Gbillah argued 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.

He said the recovery of the Abacha loot used to be shrouded in secrecy, but said revelations have shown that there is the danger that Nigeria may have breached the contract terms by recruiting the second set of lawyers to conduct a job already done and completed.

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