Abacha loot: Reps suspends N6bn payment to lawyers

OrderPaperToday – The House of Representatives on Thursday requested President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend the payment of six billion naira or any part thereof being demanded by some lawyers for recovery of Abacha loot pending investigation on the matter.

The demand was sequel to a motion sponsored by Mr Mark Gbillah (APC, Benue) during plenary.

In his lead debate, Mr. Gbillah revealed that Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, had curiously engaged the services of Oladipo Okpeseyi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and Temitope Adebayo for a fee of $16.9 Million (about N6billion), without due process in 2016.

He hinted further that both Lawyers had worked for President Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a legacy party of the All Progressive Congress (APC) when Malami was the legal adviser of CPC.

The lawmaker added that the terms of the agreement reached with a Swiss lawyer for the recovery of the loot from Switzerland clearly spelt out that no other lawyer would be engaged for the return of the money to Nigeria.

Recall that Mr 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 and had finished the Luxembourg leg of the job since 2014 when Mohammed Bello Adoke was the Attorney-General of the Federation.

According to Mr. Gbillah, Mr 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 an MoU with Nigeria to avoid the issues of accountability around previous recoveries.

“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 lawmaker said it is noteworthy for the House to carry out the investigation to determine whether the fund being demanded by the new set of lawyers were supposed to be paid or not.

The debate on the motion saw lawmakers from both the All Progressive Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) attacking themselves on the issue.

According to Mr. Nkem Abonta (PDP, Abia), the House should investigate what these three lawyers have done to deserve this amount being demanded.

An adhoc committee was therefore set up to unravel the matter. The committee is expected to report its findings to the House within six weeks for further legislative action.




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