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$500m Abacha Loot: US Refuses to Deal with Malami’s Lawyers

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Abacha Loot

By Dipo Olowookere

The United States government has maintained that it would not have anything to do with lawyers of Nigeria’s Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr Abubakar Malami, in the repatriation of the $500 million Abacha loot.

Instead, the US government, through its Department of Justice, said it would only do business directly with the Nigerian government.

In an exclusive report by The Cable, it was disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari was told point blank during his visit to the US that no party would be listened to in the restitution of the funds.

Mr Malami had attempted to engage private lawyers who were going to take a cut as “legal fees” — even though they did not play any role in the recovery of the stolen funds traced to the former military head of state, Sani Abacha, who ruled Nigeria from 1993 to 1998.

The recoveries were made in 2014 under President Goodluck Jonathan and domiciled with the US government — and all the lawyers involved had been paid 4% of the funds as their fees.

The funds were to be returned to Nigeria on the condition that the federal government would sign an MoU to avoid the mismanagement associated with recoveries under President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Like Switzerland, Like America

In 2016, however, Mr Malami went ahead to appoint two Nigerian lawyers again — in a pattern very similar to the $321 million Abacha Loot recovered from Luxembourg also in 2014 for which the lawyers he hurriedly engaged were to be paid almost $17 million for doing nothing.

In the Switzerland case, Mr Malami appointed Oladipo Okpeseyi, a senior advocate, and Temitope Isaac Adebayo, in 2016 apparently to replicate the job already done.

Incidentally, Okpeseyi and Adebayo were lawyers to the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the APC legacy party of which Malami was the legal adviser.

He also proposed to use the same lawyers in the US case, but TheCable understands that the department of justice has consistently refused to entertain them, thereby stalling the return of the money to Nigeria.

America has now promised to return the $500 million but without the involvement of the appointed intermediaries.

The Nigerian government has also undertaken to spend the money on social protection programmes.

According to documents seen by TheCable, the DoJ initiated a legal action in November 2013 on the request of then attorney-general, Mohammed Bello Adoke, to confiscate assets worth $500 million traced to the Abacha family in France, Jersey and the UK.

Although the funds were not in the US, they fell foul of America’s money laundering laws having passed through the country in one form or the other.

Following a civil forfeiture complaint, the DoJ froze $280 million of Abacha Loot in Jersey, $140 million in France and $40 million in England.

Under US rules, any claimants to the asset were required to file a claim no later than 35 days after direct notice was sent to them or 60 days after the publication of notice.

The Forfeiture

Neither Mohammed Abacha, son of the late dictator, nor his companies filed any such complaint within the period until it expired.

Mr Adoke had instituted a criminal case against the Abachas in Nigeria which eventually forced the family to enter into a settlement with the federal government to return the looted funds.

On June 2, 2014, the DoJ requested the US district court for the District of Columbia to enter into a default judgment against the Abachas in the suit, United States of America v. All Assets Held in Account Number 80020796 in the Name of Doraville Properties Corporation at Deutsche Bank International Limited in Jersey, Channel Islands and All Interest, Benefits of Assets Traceable Thereto.

However, some lawyers appeared on the scene claiming to have been engaged by Nigeria to handle the recovery of the funds.

They showed a letter of authority signed by Akin Olujinmi, Nigeria’s attorney-general between 2003 and 2005 — even though the Nigerian government had engaged Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer, to do the same job in 1999.

The lawyers — Jude Chukwuma Ezeala, Kenneth A. Nnaka, Godson Nnaka and Charles Lion Agwumezie — were also said not to have done anything in 10 years since Olujinmi authorised them.

Their involvement was opposed by Adoke, who wrote a letter dated May 26, 2014 to the Asset Forfeiture Money Laundering Section, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice, to state that the lawyers were not authorised.

Thereafter, specifically on June 27, 2014, the DoJ requested that US district court for the District of Columbia to strike out the complaint filed by the four lawyers.

As a result, the DoJ got a motion in the US district court for DC on July 3, 2014 — finally allowing for the recovery of the funds.

In all, well over $1 billion was traced to Abacha in the UK, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein as at 2012 when Jonathan was president.

Returned With Interest

The $321 million recovered from Luxembourg in 2014 under President Goodluck Jonathan was domiciled with the attorney-general of Switzerland pending the signing of an MoU to avoid the mismanagement associated with previous recoveries.

Pio Wennubst, assistant director-general and head, Global Cooperation Department, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, told NAN recently that the money was returned to Nigeria with a $1.5 million interest, bringing it to a total of $322.5 million.

TheCable reported Malami’s attempt to pay lawyers for the deal, prompting a parliamentary inquiry.

The house of representatives has set up a probe panel to investigate the suspected sleaze.

The recovery was done by Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer, who vehemently denied syndicated media articles that he was asking for another 20% of the recovered funds for the final leg of the restitution to Nigeria.

In an email to TheCable, however, Monfrini had explained that there is no truth in the allegation.

“I never had the audacity to claim for additional fees. This figure of 20% 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,” he said, adding that “any allegations against that would just be a lie.”

“The repatriation of the $321 million was not completed by me. It’s a matter which is normally dealt between governments and which doesn’t entail the engagement of lawyers.”

Malami does not respond to calls or text messages from TheCable.

Source: The Cable

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Jangebe Abduction: Why We Can’t Attack Terrorists—Buhari

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Buhari confused

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

The abduction of secondary schoolgirls in Jangebe, Zamfara State on Friday has not gone down well with President Muhammadu Buhari, who has sent out a strong warning to the terrorists, who carried out this act as well as their sponsors.

Over 300 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe, were kidnapped in the wee hours of today. It occurred barely two weeks after some gunmen went away with some students and teachers of a government secondary school in Niger State.

Reacting to Friday’s incident, Mr Buhari described it as “inhumane and totally unacceptable,” emphasising that his “administration will not succumb to blackmail by bandits who target innocent school students in the expectations of huge ransom payments.”

In the statement issued by the presidency, Mr Buhari maintained that “no criminal group can be too strong to be defeated by the government,” adding that “the only thing standing between our security forces and the bandits are the rules of engagement.”

“Let them not entertain any illusions that they are more powerful than the government. They shouldn’t mistake our restraint for the humanitarian goals of protecting innocent lives as a weakness or a sign of fear or irresolution,” he further said.

The President urged state governments “to review their policy of rewarding bandits with money and vehicles, warning that the policy might boomerang disastrously.”

He also advised states and local governments to be more proactive by improving security around schools and their surroundings.

He noted that the federal government has the “capacity to deploy massive force against the bandits in the villages where they operate, but our limitation is the fear of heavy casualties of innocent villagers and hostages who might be used as human shields by the bandits,” stressing that “our primary objective is to get the hostages safe, alive and unharmed.”

President Buhari noted that “a hostage crisis is a complex situation that requires maximum patience in order to protect the victims from physical harm or even brutal death at the hands of their captors.”

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N26bn PHCN Severance Benefit Puts Insurance Broker in Trouble

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Bestworth Insurance Brokers Abiodun Waheed Hassan

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

An insurance broker, Mr Abiodun Waheed Hassan, has been arraigned before Justice S.C Oriji of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Apo, Abuja for an alleged diversion of N26 billion.

Mr Hassan, who is a director at Bestworth Insurance Brokers Limited, was accused of using the funds earmarked for the payment of outstanding insurance premiums and claims of deceased and incapacitated staff of defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which arraigned the suspect on Thursday, February 25, 2021, said the offence was punishable under Section 315 of the Panel Code Cap 532 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, (Abuja) 2004.

One of the five-count charges against the insurance broker indicated that, “That you, Abiodun Waheed Hassan, Director, Bestworth Insurance Brokers Limited and Bestworth Insurance Brokers Limited on or about January 15, 2015, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, while being entrusted with certain property to wit: the sum of N26.2 billion paid into Bestworth Insurance Brokers Limited’s Skye Bank Account No. 1771645118 from PHCN Staff Severance Benefits account with the Central Bank of Nigeria, being funds earmarked for the payment of outstanding insurance premiums and claims of deceased and incapacitated staff of PHCN, did commit criminal breach of trust in respect of the said property by dishonestly misappropriating the sum of N2.5 billion thereof when you transferred the said sum into Kakatar CE Limited’s Zenith Bank Account No.1012637660 and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 315 of the Panel Code Cap 532 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, (Abuja) 2004.”

Another count said, “That you, Abiodun Waheed Hassan, Director, Bestworth Insurance Brokers Limited and Bestworth Insurance Brokers Limited on or about December 18, 2014, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, while being entrusted with certain property to wit: the sum of N26.2 billion paid into Bestworth Insurance Brokers Limited’s Skye Bank Account No. 1771645118 from PHCN Staff Severance Benefits account with the Central Bank of Nigeria, being funds earmarked for the payment of outstanding insurance premiums and claims of deceased and incapacitated staff of PHCN, did commit criminal breach of trust in respect of the said property by dishonestly misappropriating the sum of N6.0 billion thereof when you transferred the said sum into PJO Venture Limited’s Skye Bank Account No.1771645235 and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 315 of the Panel Code Cap 532 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, (Abuja) 2004.”

However, the defendant pleaded ‘not guilty’, when the charges were read to him. Based on his plea, prosecution counsel, Benjamin Lawan Menji, ask for a trial date and prayed the court to remand the defendant at the Correctional Service pending the trail.

Counsel for the defendant, Ade Olusalako, told the court that the defence had filed a motion for bail of his client and pleaded for the remand of the defendant in the custody of the EFCC pending the determination of his bail application on the grounds that “the defendant has been on administrative bail for almost five years and he has an underlining sickness”.

But the prosecution counsel objected to the application.

“As he rightly submitted, we received the application but we shall vehemently be opposing the application; we said vehemently so that the court will know that we have a strong opposition.

“Moreover, our facility is overstretched because of the issue of the COVID-19 pandemic, the little we have we are trying to manage them. The proper place of detention or custody is the Correctional Service which the government has done its best in providing,” Menji told the court.

However, Justice Oriji adjourned the matter till March 4, 2021, for a hearing on the bail application and remanded the defendant in EFCC custody.

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Gunmen Abducts Secondary School Girls in Zamfara

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Bello Matawalle Zamfara State

By Aduragbemi Omiyale

Barely two weeks after some terrorists kidnapped students and staff of the Government Science School, Kagara, Niger State, another set of secondary school students have been abducted by bandits.

In the wee hours of Friday, February 26, 2021, some gunmen raided a government secondary school in Jangebe, Zamfara State, and went away with many children.

According to the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), the hoodlums were specifically at the Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Talata Mafara Local Government Area of Zamfara State.

However, the exact number of students abducted by the terrorists could not be ascertained.

In a telephone conversation, the Commissioner for Information in Zanfara State, Mr Suleiman Tunau Anka, informed Channels Television that the incident happened around 1:00am on Friday.

The abduction of students in the northern part of Nigeria is becoming rampant as it is a strategy used by terrorists to get a huge amount of money as ransom from the government.

About two weeks ago, when bandits kidnapped some students in Niger State, there were allegations that N800 million were requested for the release of the victims.

But the government has said no money was paid for the release of the abducted students and staff of the school, especially as President Muhammadu Buhari gave security officials a marching order to rescue them.

The Zamfara school girls abduction will come as a surprise to many observers because the state governor, Mr Bello Matawalle, offered amnesty to bandits in the state to prevent situations like this.

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IBEDC Takes Steps to Improve Power Supply to Lalupon, Environs

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ibedc prepaid meter

By Dipo Olowookere

Residents of Lalupon and its environs have been promised a better power supply by the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company Plc (IBEDC).

Communities in the Lalupon area of Ibadan, Oyo State have been battling with poor supply of electricity, leaving many residents in frustration.

In a statement issued by the Chief Technical Officer (CTO) of IBEDC, Engr Akin Abiodun, the energy company said it was aware of the situation as was working tirelessly to resolve the issue.

The firm explained that the Lalupon 33kV feeder is a leg on the Adogba 33kV feeder from Ibadan North 132/33kV transmission substation, located at Shasha, in Ojoo area.

“This feeder supplies electricity to Olodo, Lalupon, Iyana-Offa, Ejioku and Oyedeji communities. This same feeder with a load demand of 27MW also feeds Adogba and Akobo injection substations.

“These same injection substations are the ones feeding Iwo Road, Monatan, New-Ife Road, Akobo, Estate and Iyana Church and so on.

“Meanwhile, Adogba 33kV feeder is limited to 17MW due to transformer limitation at the transmission station.

“The management of IBEDC, in response to this inherited albatross from the defunct PHCN, has rehabilitated the Lalupon 33kV line by reconductoring and changing failed components on the line. “IBEDC also re-channelled 27 Tee-Offs from the line to New Asejire 33kV feeder in order to reduce the load on Lalupon 33kV line.

As part of the remedies under the proposal, IBEDC management plans to run a new 33kV line from Iwo transmission substation to Lalupon, thereby changing the source of supply from Ibadan North Transmission Substation to Iwo Transmission Substation.

“With this, we believe the much-desired respite would be achieved,” the company said in the statement made available to Business Post.

IBEDC, however, noted that funding of the project, which hitherto has been hampering the execution, is now receiving priority attention.

The company disclosed that it is also planned that when this line is completed, an injection substation will be constructed at Lalupon to complement the line project.

The statement said the organisation is in collaboration with the Oyo State government and the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) to have another 330/132/33kV transmission substation (similar to that at Ayede, Ibadan) at Egbeda area of the state.

“Furthermore, for any relationship to thrive, it must be mutually beneficial. The consistent rejection of our electricity bills, apathy to payment and assault on our staff when carrying out their lawful duties by some customers at Lalupon community frustrates our laudable business projections for Lalupon and its environs.

“This attitude is negative and counter-productive. We hereby appeal to the good people of Lalupon community to toe the path of peace and dialogue and to support IBEDC in permanently resolving the present power supply challenges in that area.

The management of IBEDC is leaving no stone unturned to ensure that all issues, including tariff-related, are amicably and permanently resolved,” the statement noted.

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Ogun Promises Proper Use of World Bank $300m

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Ogun State Security Trust Fund

By Adedapo Adesanya

The Ogun State government has made plans to utilize a financing partnership agreement worth over $300 million signed with World Bank to fund Ogun Economic Transformation projects.

This was disclosed by Governor Dapo Abiodun when the 56th Governing Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN), led by its President, Mrs Onome Adewuyi, paid him a courtesy visit at his Oke-Mosan office, Abeokuta.

The Governor, who was represented by the Commissioner for Finance and Chief Economic Adviser, Mr Dapo Okubadejo, said the project, when completed, would further place the state as one of the fastest-growing economies in Nigeria.

On her part, the President of ICAN lauded the state Governor for receiving the delegation, noting that the visit would enable the government and other stakeholders to champion ways of sustaining growth and development of the State and the country at large.

The project development objective (Project ID: P164031) is to increase the participation of the private sector in the economy of Ogun State, with a focus on improving the business-enabling environment, strengthening agri-food value-chains and upgrading skills.

The credit from the multilateral lender has a maturity period of 30 years with a grace of five years.

In support of Ogun State’s development objectives, the project has three core areas of implementation, which are the creation of enabling business environment, strategic technical and vocational skills and development as well as agricultural value chain development. These will all rest on a pillar of strengthened governance capabilities as areas such as statistics, procurement, monitoring & evaluation and planning are bolstered through the program.

Efforts were first advanced during the outgoing tenure of Senator Ibikunle Amosun in April 2019, he, however, noted that then the incoming Dapo Abiodun-led administration already has a ready-made support to enhance the delivery and good governance of the project.

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Nigeria Determined to Eradicate Malnutrition—Minister

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children malnutrition

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, has said the federal government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari has shown a strong commitment to eradicate malnutrition in the country.

She said this was why the government has come up with various policies to drive massive investment in agriculture and boost food security in Nigeria.

“In recent years, Nigeria has shown a clear commitment to the eradication of malnutrition. This is happening through the adoption and domestication of policies and costed strategic plans, which emphasise increased reliance on domestic funding; and a well-coordinated multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach (comprising government, CSOs, private sector and donors); backed by sustained high-level political commitment,” Mrs Ahmed at the dialogue on the United Nations (UN) food systems summit held recently.

She further said the government has also put in place “the national strategic plan of action for nutrition, the national policy on food and nutrition, the innovative national social investment programme (which includes the home-grown school feeding programme), the basic health care provision fund, and the National Council on Nutrition, and the development of various food and nutrition sector plans.”

According to her, the implementation of the National Food Summit Dialogues is critical to the achievement of the Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP) and the Nigeria Agenda 2050.

The Minister further said that the outputs of the various food summit dialogues would form a critical component for the conclusion of the MTNDP and the Nigeria Agenda 2050, and would, as well, contribute to the achievement of sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Nigeria.

“The NNFSD is required to improve nutrition security, reduce hunger and prevalence of malnutrition in line with the national food and nutrition policy for Nigeria.

“It is envisioned to create more inclusive, healthier food systems and encourage a collaborative approach towards building a sustainable food system,” she added.

“We in Nigeria are at a critical crossroads. While we have seen some improvements in recent years, particularly in the areas of child nutrition and breastfeeding, we know that in order for these improvements to yield results, malnutrition (and other public health issues) must be addressed through the implementation of innovative policies and strategies,” she said further.

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