By Kemi Yesufu
The House of Representatives has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the payment of $16.9 million (six billion Naira) or any part thereof being demanded for by some Nigerian lawyers for the recovery of part of the Abacha loot.
The House wants the payment halted to give it enough time to conduct and conclude investigation into allegations of fraud.
The calls followed the adoption of a motion by Rep. Mark Gbillah (APC-Benue).
Leading the debate on the motion said Gbillah, said the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN) 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 N6 Billion), without due process in 2016.
The lawmaker further explained that the lawyers worked for President Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) which was part of the merger that produced the All Progressive Congress (APC), when Malami was the legal adviser of CPC.
Gbillah also explained that the terms of the agreement reached with a foreign lawyer, Mr. Enrico Mofrini for the recovery of the loot, clearly stated that no other lawyer would be engaged for the return of the loot to Nigeria.
Recall that the Nigerian Government, hired Monfrini, a Swiss Lawyer since 1999 to work on recovering the Abacha loot .
He had concluded the Luxembourg leg of the job since 2014, when Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) was the Attorney-General of the Federation and this culminated in the eventual payment of the sum of $321 million.
According to Gbillah, the Swiss lawyer 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.
Another member Nkem Abonta (PDP, Abia) spoke in support of the motion. But Johnson Agbonanyima (APC, Edo) opposed the motion, saying the House has not been informed on how much the foreign lawyer had bargained for.
Speaker Yakubu Dogara, on his part wondered if the money paid the lawyer was appropriated for “Assuming that a firm of lawyers have been engaged, where is the money coming from? Has the money been appropriated?, he asked”
The House thereafter resolved to constitute an ad-hoc committee to investigate if due process was followed in the engagement of the Nigeria lawyers