Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister for Justice, Abuakar Malami (SAN), has explained that the suit filed by a lawyer, Godson Nnaka, for a share in assets recovered from former military ruler, General Sani Abacha, valued at $458million is stalling the reparation of the money to Nigeria.
In a statement he issued yesterday in Abuja, the minister said in 2013, the United States Department of Justice, (USDOJ) as part of its Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, commenced a forfeiture proceeding to confiscate approximately $550 million that had been corruptly obtained by late General Abacha and his associates (the “Abacha Case”).
According to him, a portion of the Abacha loot, valued at $458 million, has now been forfeited to the United States.
He said: “On December 17, 2015, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia entered final judgment forfeiting certain Abacha assets valued at $458 million.
“The forfeiture proceeding as to those assets is therefore concluded and the forfeited assets are ripe for repatriation to the innocent victim – Nigeria.
“However, Godson Nnaka has filed an appeal against the judgment of forfeiture, falsely claiming to be entitled to a portion of the assets as compensation for legal services allegedly rendered to Nigeria. His claim is untrue.
“The USDOJ has represented to us that the appeal is the only issue delaying repatriation of the forfeited assets to Nigeria. They have explained that the forfeited assets are not located in the US and that only upon disposition of the appeal would the US then have a final judgment upon which it can seek the retrieval of the forfeited assets which are frozen in multiple foreign jurisdictions and return same to Nigeria.
“The forfeiture of the remaining $100 million in assets is still pending. The forfeiture of these assets is being contested by certain individuals, who are related to Atiku Bagudu (General Abacha’s associate) and who claim that these assets are the subject matter of a private family trust.
“In this regard, we are cooperating with the USDOJ by providing them with the documents, information, witnesses and other evidence required to secure expeditious forfeiture of this portion of the Abacha loot.”
Malami also described as spurious the allegation by Nnaka that he asked for kickbak.
The minister said the allegations were aimed at extorting settlement from Nigeria and a sheer blackmail.
The minister said Nnaka failed to appreciate and abide by the laws in the jurisdiction wherein he practiced law.
He said: “He fails to understand that even though the Abacha loot has been forfeited to the US, there are additional provisions of US law wherein victims of looted funds like Nigeria can have the looted funds returned to them.
“The office of the AGF never negotiated any terms with Nnaka or his counsel. The only communication with Nnaka was only out of professional courtesy. He was advised to follow due process in requesting instructions as outside counsel retained by Nigeria in this case did.
“He was advised to submit his proposal to President Advisory Committee on Corruption, the office of the Solicitor General, the Department of State Services (DSS) and based on evaluation and recommendation from the above bodies, the Office of the Attorney General would consider his request.”
Malami said Nnaka’s allegations of a kickback demand were untrue and simply reek of desperation.