Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, has refused to approve the payment of $16.9 million fees to two lawyers for the recovery of Abacha loot worth $321 million.
Adeosun also wrote a strongly-worded letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, raising objections to the payment.
Meanwhile, the recovered sum, according to online platform, TheCable, has been repatriated to Nigeria by the Swiss government, following the execution of the memorandum of understanding, MoU, between the two countries for the judicious use of the recovery.
“It is true that a request was made to the Minister of Finance for the payment to the Nigerian lawyers, but approval is another thing altogether,” a senior government official said,weekend, adding that the request had been sent back to the Ministry of Justice.
TheCable had reported that Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer hired by the Federal Government since 1999 to work on recovering Abacha loot, had finished the Luxembourg leg of the job since 2014 when Mohammed Bello Adoke was Attorney-General of the Federation.
Monfrini had also been paid his fees by the Federal Government.
The recovered money 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 after the signing of the MoU was a government-to-government communication for the money to be repatriated to Nigeria.
However, Abubakar Malami, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, had engaged the services of another set of lawyers in 2016 for a fee of about N6 billion.
The Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation, CNJF, a partner organisation to TheCable, then sent a Freedom of Information, FOI, request to Malami for a copy of the agreements reached with Monfrini for the recovery.
TheCable understands that the terms in the agreement were clearly spelt out, such that no other lawyer would be needed for the return of the money to Nigeria.
Malami refused to accede to the FOI request, but the Cable Foundation is currently in court to seek an order of mandamus to compel the attorney-general to make the documents public.
In an email to TheCable, however, Monfrini explained that there was no truth in the allegation.
He said: “I never had the audacity to ask for additional fees. This figure of 20 per cent is simply invented. I didn’t reject any proposal made by Mr. Malami since my fees were already paid a long time before Mr. Malami’s appointment as attorney general. Any allegations against that would just be a lie.”