House to Probe $17m Payment to Abacha Loot Recovery Lawyers


• Says Buhari yet to seek appropriation for $1bn withdrawal for security equipment

James Emejo in Abuja

The House of Representatives thursday passed a resolution requesting President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend the payment of $17 million or any part thereof to some Nigerian lawyers for the recovery of the funds from the late military Head of State, General Sani Abacha, from the Swiss Government pending investigation on the matter.

The House also said it was yet to receive any communication from the president requesting approval to spend the sum of $1 billion, which he recently approved for the purchase of weapons to fight insurgency in the country from the Excess Crude Account (ECA).

It further okayed the setting up of an Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the engagement of some Nigerian lawyers, namely: Oladipo Okpeseyi (SAN) and Temitope Adebayo, for a fee of $16.9 million (about N6 billion), when the actual work had been concluded by Mr. Enrico Monfrini, who was paid by the Nigerian Government for the recovery of the sum of $321 million part of the Abacha loot from Luxembourg.

It said the proposed committee should determine whether due process was followed and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.

The resolution of the House followed a motion sponsored by Hon. Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue) on the need to investigate the proposed payment of $17 million to lawyers by the Attorney General of the Federation for the recovery of ‘Abacha Loot’.

Essentially, the lawmaker said one 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 of the job and had finished the Luxembourg leg of the job since 2014 when Mohammed Bello Adoke was the Attorney-General of the Federation.
He said: “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 a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Nigeria to avoid the issues of accountability around previous recoveries.”

Gbillah said: “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.

“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, namely: Oladipo Okpeseyi(SAN) and Temitope Adebayo, for a fee of $16.9 million (about N6 billion), without due process.”

According to him, “Both lawyers had worked for President Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a legacy party of the All Progressives Congress (APC) when Malami was the legal adviser of CPC.
“The terms of the agreement reached with Mofrini for the recovery clearly spelt out that no other lawyer would be engaged for the return of the money to Nigeria.”

Meanwhile, the House yesterday said it was yet to receive any communication from President Buhari requesting approval to spend the sum $1 billion, which he recently approved for the purchase of weapons to fight insurgency in the country.

The spokesman of the House, Hon. Abdulrasaq Namdas, told journalists at the weekly briefing that the money must be appropriated by the National Assembly before it is spent.

He said the fund would be accommodated in the 2018 budget if parliamentary approval is sought on good time before the budget is passed, else it could be captured in next year’s budget.

He said: “At the moment, there’s no communication in respect to that.”
Namdas also assured that the resolve of the House to pass the 2018 budget this month remained sacrosanct as efforts are in top gear.

He said: “We will do everything humanly possible to ensure we pass it in April. We’ve reached an advanced stage and we’ll lay it and approve it.”