The Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation says it has written to the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, demanding information on the $16.9m (about N7bn) allegedly paid as a legal fee to two Nigerian lawyers, following the recovery of $321m Abacha loot from Luxembourg.
The foundation, in a statement on Thursday by its Programme Officer, Mrs Abiose Adams, said its request was anchored on the Freedom of Information Act.
It said it would like to know the circumstances under which the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), engaged the two Nigerian lawyers – Messrs Oladipo Okpeseyi and Temitope Isaac Adebayo – and paid them about N7bn, for a job believed to have already been done and finalised by a Swiss lawyer, Enrico Monfrini.
The foundation recalled that online news platform, TheCable, had done a report, suggesting that Monfrini, who was engaged by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, had already finalised the legal work for the repatriation of the $321m to Nigeria and had been fully paid for his services as far back as 2014.
According to the report, Monfrini denied allegations that he was asking for extra payment to complete the job, maintaining that the recovery had been finalised and that all that was left was for the AGF to write a simple letter to the Swiss Government, for Nigeria to take delivery of the $321m.
The foundation said it found it curious that Malami would hire two indigenous lawyers for about N7bn to do a job that was already done by the Swiss.
It said already it was in court, seeking an order of mandamus to compel Malami to avail it copies of the agreements signed by the Federal Government and Monfrini, after the AGF allegedly spurned an FoI request made to him by the foundation.
In its FoI request to the Minister of Finance, CNJF wants “a breakdown of the amount approved and released for the Nigerian lawyers between the time they were appointed and today; as well as records showing payment timeline for the services of the Swiss lawyer.”
“This request is in line with Sections 2(3) and (4) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2011, which require all ‘information relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds of the institution’ to be ‘widely disseminated and more readily available’.
“We are trying to help President Muhammadu Buhari in his war against corruption,” CNJF said.
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.