Legal Fee: Submit Documents on $5m Payments Within 48 Hours, Senate Orders NIMASA

Sunday Aborisade

The Senate Public Account Committee (SPAC) has ordered the Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to within 48 hours, submit documents it used to pay $5 million legal fees to a firm of legal practitioners who did not allegedly, render any service to it.

SPAC led by its Chairman, Senator Matthew Urhoghide, had invited the management of NIMASA to explain why it allegedly paid the $5 million to a firm of lawyers when the said legal service was not rendered.

The representative of NIMASA, Olamide Olusanya, however told the panel at the resumption of proceedings on the matter yesterday, that the issue was already before a competent court of law.

The Committee nevertheless, rejected the NIMASA’s submission and asked the agency to make all the documents relating to the transaction available on Thursday unfailingly.

The Official of NIMASA told the lawmakers that the Agency was directed by then Attorney General of the Federation to pay the $5 million as a legal fee.

The Chairman of the Committee asked the representative of NIMASA to present any letter mandating the agency to pay the $5 million as a legal fee.

The senators asked the NIMASA representative whether it was the Presidency that directed the agency to pay the legal fees, and Olusanya replied them that there was no such directive from the villa.

He, however, said NIMASA was only in possession of a letter from the Senior Special Assistant to President on Administration authorising the payment.

The Chairman therefore ordered the agency to present documents relating to the payment by Thursday   before the Committee would take a final decision on the matter.

He said, ” We need the details of the payment, you go back to your archives and bring it out “

Another member of the Committee, Senator Abdullahi Danbaba said there was no basis for making the payment.

He added that the money should be recovered from the law from the law firm.

The Chairman then said, “Let us know the transaction between you (NIMASA) and the AGF that made you to pay the money.”

The Committee had invited NIMASA up to three times to give explanation about the payment of $5 million as professional fee.

The panel had also demanded for details of $9.3 billion loss by the federal government, but the agency had declined the invitation.

In the report of the Auditor General for the Federation, seen by THISDAY, it was revealed that all efforts by the AuGF to see the details of the $9.3 billion loss for scrutiny was not granted by NIMASA.

According to AuGF report, the money was paid from Zenith Bank in the United Kingdom through its dollar account.

Part of the query read, “Audit observed that the agency engaged the service of a legal firm through a letter with reference number NIMASA/DG/KP/2014/001, dated 24th January 2014 for the intelligence based tracking of global movement of Nigerian Hydro-Carbon and recovery of loss by the Federal Government of Nigeria in the sum of USD9.3billion between 2013 and 2014, with a start-off cost of $5 million and 5% of all sums recovered.

“Payment instruction with reference number NIMASA/2007/DFS/WJ/5.500/VOL.11/341 dated April 2014 showed that the firm was paid the sum of $4,523,809.52 (Four million five hundred and twenty three thousand eight hundred and nine dollar fifty two cents only) net as professional fees from Zenith Bank (UK) Dollar account.”

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