Three months after the commencement of investigation into the request by Attorney-General Abubakar Malami for the payment of $17 million to two lawyers for their roles in the recovery of $321 million Abacha loot, the House of Representatives said it is yet to conclude investigations.
Reacting to controversial reports trailing Malami’s request for the payment to the two lawyers, Oladipo Okpeseyi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and Temitope Adebayo said the House created an adhoc committee to investigate the controversies with a view to resolving them.
The committee, set up on April 12 following a motion by Mark Gbillah, was supposed to submit its report after six weeks from the day it was created.
When Premium Times contacted Gbillah for an update on the investigation on July 17, he responded in a text message that the committee’s hearing on the matter was postponed for various reasons till next week.
Gbillah did not respond to further questions seeking clarifications on the new date for the conclusion of the investigations.
“There was a delay in obtaining requested infomation from the international lawyers and a postponement of meetings because of the Salah break.
The Committee was scheduled to have a hearing July 18 which has been postponed to next week because of the NASS open week,” the lawmaker said.
The proposed payment triggered widespread controversies following reports by The Cable online newspaper that the lawyers were employed to perform roles already concluded by a Swiss law firm, Enrico Monfrini, since 2014.
According to the paper, Monfrini, who was employed by the federal government in 1999 to facilitate the return of the money completed the Luxemburg part of the job in 2014 and the money was domiciled with the office of the AttorneyGeneral of Switzerland pending a Memorandum of Understanding which was meant to ensure that the money would not be misused by government.
That MoU was the only step necessary for the return of the money.
It was also a role that required active involvement only by the offices of Attorney-General of both countries without help from private lawyers.
But in a curious development in 2016, Malami employed the services of the two lawyers and defended his decision with a claim that Monfrini made exorbitant requests for the payment of 20 per cent of the entire sum as compensation for completing the process.