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Foundation writes Adeosun over alleged N7b legal fee on Abacha loot

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Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun

•Broadcasting commission undermining media freedom, HURIWA claims

The Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation (CNJF) has sent a Freedom of Information request to the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, on the alleged payment of $16.9 million (about N7 billion) to lawyers in the recovery of $321 million Abacha loot from Luxembourg.

The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had reportedly engaged two Nigerian lawyers, Oladipo Okpeseyi, and Temitope Isaac Adebayo, for the recovery after the money was returned to Nigeria with $1.5 million interest by the Swiss government.However, TheCable news portal, a partner organisation to the foundation, had reported that a Swiss lawyer, Enrico Monfrini, had done all the legal work and completed the recoveries for which he had been paid in full by the Goodluck Jonathan administration way back 2014.

The Swiss, however, denied allegations that he was asking for extra payment to complete the job, maintaining that the recovery had been finalised. He added that what was left was for Malami to write his home government for the repatriation.The CNJF said it had sent an earlier FoI request to the AGF seeking copies of the agreements signed with Monfrini but declined response.

The foundation added that its lawyers, Kusamotu & Kusamotu, are now in court seeking an order of mandamus to compel Malami to make the documents available in line with public interest.In the fresh request, the foundation is seeking a breakdown of the amount approved and released for the Nigerian lawyers between the time they were appointed and now as well as records showing payment timelines for the services of the Swiss lawyer.

The proposal, according to the not-for-profit media organisation, is in line with Sections 2(3) & (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.”The Programme Officer of CNJF, Mrs. Abiose Adelaja Adams, in a statement yesterday, said: “We are trying to help President Muhammadu Buhari in his war against corruption.

The House of Representatives, it was learnt, has also set up an ad hoc committee to probe the legal fees.TheCable also reported earlier in the year that the American government had told Buhari it would not entertain the involvement of private lawyers in the return of another $500 million loot of the late despot domiciled with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2014 after the recoveries by the Jonathan government.It was categorically stated that the U.S. would only deal with Nigeria on a government-to-government basis.

However, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has accused the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Alhaji Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, of enforcing the alleged religious sentiments of President Muhammadu Buhari in public and private broadcasting.

Besides, the organisation called on the National Assembly to investigate the claims of nepotism, favouritism and religious sentiments in the exercise of the functions and duties of the office currently held by Kawu. In a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, and Media Affairs Director, HURIWA said it has become imperative for the head of that government agency to be “compelled to operate within the principle of rule of law and adherence to the constitutional provisions and respect for Section 22 of the constitution for the betterment of Nigerians’ collective yearnings for the expansion of the frontiers of media freedoms.”

The group lamented that the allegation that the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, wrote to the commission over a year ago to raise him a loan to travel to China has not been sufficiently investigated in compliance with the principles of transparency and accountability. It also faulted the appointment of a non-professional journalist as minister.

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