Nigeria: Why I Planned to Pay Firm N774 Billion to Recover Money From Oil Companies - Malami

30 November 2019

The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, has given reasons why he engaged Trobell International for the recovery of $62 billion unremitted funds due to Nigeria from multinational companies.

In a statement on Saturday, Mr Malami defended his controversial decision that has angered many Nigerians.

The controversy that greeted his latest move is reminiscent of the one that trailed his employment of lawyers for a similar recovery of $321 million of Abacha loot.

Mr Malami said the Supreme Court case that led a judgement directing the payment of the fund in October, resulted from a suit instituted "at the instance of Trobell."

"Subsequent action thereof; inclusive of the court case and engagement of professionals for forensic analysis that established the case and the liability in quantum were all the products of Trobell's initiatives," the statement said.

On Friday, Mr Malami explained the function of his office in facilitating the payment of five per cent to the recovery agent, through the Ministry of Finance.

"Recovery agents can only act upon authorisation of the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and duly documented upon vetting and approval of proposal by a recovery agent.

"Upon engagement, the recovery agent goes further to recover the assets as contained in the engagement letter. The recovered amount must be lodged into the Federal Government Recovery Account maintained at the Central Bank of Nigeria.

"When the amount is lodged into the account, the Federal Ministry of Justice will obtain evidence of lodgement of the said amount into the Central Bank Account.

"Write a letter to the Federal Ministry of Finance, forward the engagement letter, forward the evidence of lodgement of the amount and direct it to pay the recovery fee," the AGF said in a follow up communication with PREMIUM Times, Friday evening.

"Surprised president"

Prior to the signing of the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin production sharing contract (PSC) Act by President Buhari on November 4, Mr Malami said he had moved to recover oil revenues due to Nigeria from international oil companies.

As part of the effort, Mr Malami said he approved a request by Trobell Limited in 2018 to proceed with the requirements for the recovery of the funds at a cost of five per cent of the recovered sum, once the legal framework was set by the signing of the Act.

The contract was in respect of the government's effort to recover over $62 billion the government said some multinational oil companies owe Nigeria.

The debt claim arose from unremitted funds from the production sharing contracts (PSCs) signed between Nigeria and the oil multinationals.

President Muhammadu Buhari had expressed surprise over the contract with Trobell Limited and directed the minister to suspend the contract. He described the agreed commission as excessive.

The president, in a letter by his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, as reported by The Cable newspaper, had stressed that the government does not need the help of the company to recover the debt as the Supreme Court had already directed the companies to pay up.

The presidency described as "incredible" the requested recovery cost, which amounts to $2.15 billion or N774 billion, the Cable reported.

Opposing presidential directive?

Mr Malami said his office has no pecuniary motives for engaging Trobell International, besides "performing his official role" in the recovery of such funds to Nigeria.

He also accused the multinational oil companies and their allies of promoting 'a campaign of calumny' against him.

"It has never been the tradition of the Attorney General of the Federation to demand much-less of accepting a kobo on matters relating to such engagements and conduct of his official duties. Multiple agents were overtime engaged in that respect without pecuniary consideration," the statement said.

Not the first time

The statement also added that the Attorney General was challenging the Cable, over the newspaper's publication about Mr Malami's involvement of two lawyers in a process for the recovery of $321 million Abacha loot.

The newspaper had written on Mr Malami's involvement of two lawyers after legal processes for the said recovery almost been concluded.

The proposed payment of $17 million to the controversially employed lawyers triggered controversy.

The Cable said the lawyers were employed to perform roles already concluded by a Swiss lawyer Enrico Monfrini's law firm since 2014.

According to the newspaper, Mr Monfrini, who was employed by the federal government in 1999 to facilitate the return of the money completed the Luxemburg part of the job in 2014 and the money was domiciled with the office of the Attorney General of Switzerland pending a Memorandum of Understanding which was meant to ensure that the money would not be misused by government.

That MoU, the Cable added, was the only step necessary for the return of the money.

It was also a role that required active involvement only by the offices of attorney generals of both countries without help from private lawyers.

But in a curious development in 2016, Mr Malami reportedly employed the services of the two lawyers and defended his decision with a claim that "Mr Monfrini made exorbitant requests for the payment of 20 per cent of the entire sum as compensation for completing the process".

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