By Josiah Oluwole
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, has secured the services of a United States lobbying firm to assist him in getting support of the American government and institutions ahead of the 2019 general elections.
Mr Saraki, who also doubles as the director general of the Atiku/Obi campaign organisation, reached an agreement with KRL International LLC , Nevada, USA, through Retail Express Limited of Lagos, Nigeria.
Details of the agreement, which was obtained by PREMIUM TIMES, is contained in the documents filed by the firm with the Foreign Affairs Registration agency as required by the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended.
The fillings are mandatory for all firms providing lobbying and PR services for foreign institutions and governments.
The retainership concerning the senate president was signed between Adekoyejo Shogbola of Retail Express Limited (on behalf of Mr Saraki) and K. Riva Levinson, President KRL International LLC.
The agreement, which took effect on August 20, 2018, and would run for eight months, would cost Mr Saraki $200,000, (about N72.7million at N363 to a U.S dollar) payable on a monthly installment of $25,000.
The senator wants KRL International to attract favourable conditions for him in the US while also building support for Nigeria’s political process and the 2019 elections.
“Whereas, the Client is desirous of engaging the services of the Firm to provide technical assistance in the area of stakeholder engagement in support of a free and fair election in Nigeria in February, 2019,” the terms of the agreement reads.
“Whereas, the Firm will advocate on behalf of H.E. Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki (hereafter referred to as ‘the Principal’) before the US government, the donor community, multi-lateral institutions, non-governmental organizations, international media and the private sector.
“Whereas, the Firm has accepted the professional engagement offered by the Client and represents that it possesses the necessary expertise, skill, technical knowledge, ability and experience to render the required services to the Client.
“Whereas, the firm will perform the following scope of work: Engage policy,makers and stakeholders in Nigeria, the US and internationally to secure support for the principal and for Nigeria’s political process. Advise on a communications strategy to convey the core tenets of the principal’s vision Provide in-country support throughout the electoral process including the post-election period.
“Whereas, the Firm’s services will seek to achieve the following;
“Establish the leadership and democratic credentials of the principal in Washington, D.C. and in key European capitals; Secure US support in ensuring free, fair and credible elections in Nigeria in 2019, and Consolidate the strategic importance of Nigeria in relation to U.S national security policy and US-Africa relations.
“Now, therefore, and in consideration of the mutual promise and agreements herein contained, the parties hereby agree as follows: It is mutually agreed by the parties to this agreement that the firm performing the services outlined above in this retainer agreement, along with the statement of work incorporated by reference, shall be compensated with a fee if $25,000 per month.
“It is mutually agreed that extraordinary expenses, including international travel, will be paid for by the client and outside of the scope of the fees herein. Extraordinary expenses shall be pre-approved by the client. All inter-continental flights to be business class with travel outside of the Washington, D.C. To be pre-approved and advanced by the client for travel.”
The agreement which commenced on August 20, 2018, and would run until April 2019, is renewable on a month by month basis, upon agreement from both parties.
“This agreement may be terminated with or without cause by either party providing the other party 30 days written notice of termination,” the memo further read.
“The retainer fee shall be due in monthly installments, with the first two months due upon the signing of this agreement by the parties and subsequent payments due on the 15th of the month prior, beginning on 15 September 2018.
“The agreement represents the entire agreement between the parties and supersedes, cancels, revokes and terminates any previous agreement on the same subject matter ever executed between the parties.”
Besides Mr Saraki’s retainership of a foreign lobbyist, Nigeria’s main opposition political party, the Peoples Democratic Party, also secured the services of an American firm for the purpose of assessing favourable support from the United States federal government in its bid to win the 2019 presidential elections.
The party is fielding a former Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, whose relationship with the United States has come under scrutiny in recent months, particularly relating to allegations of corruption linked with convicted Louisiana congressman, William Jefferson.
Mr Abubakar is alleged to have been involved in corrupt practices during his term in office as vice president, between 1999 and 2007 after Mr Jefferson was recorded on a video tape saying he would be offering a “$500,000 bribe” to the former vice president to facilitate contracts in Nigeria for a foreign company, iGate.
Although the congressman was found guilty and convicted, Mr Abubakar has consistently denied any wrongdoing, arguing that the allegations against him were unfounded.
His inability to travel to the United States since the case began triggered claims that he might be apprehended in the US by the authorities if he travels there.
The move by the PDP to seal a deal with a lobbying firm, Ballard Partners Inc, of the US in September 2018, may not be unconnected with helping its presidential candidate get the needed support in his quest for the presidency, analysts say.
Documents detailing the contracts showed that the PDP entered into a contract with Ballard Inc. to help it “advocate on its behalf those issues” the PDP “deems necessary before the US Federal government.”
The documents of the contract was also filed with FARA.
The contract was signed on behalf of the PDP by the Special Adviser to the National Chairman of the PDP, Osita Chidoka, while Brian D. Ballard, signed for his company, as its President. Both parties signed the deal on September 21, 2018.
Mr Chidoka is a former minister of aviation after he had served as Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps under the Jonathan administration.
“This contract is entered into between the Peoples Democratic Party of Nigeria (“Client”), Plot 1970 Michael Okpara Street, Wuse Zone 5, Abuja, Nigeria, and Ballard Partners, Inc. (“the Firm”),” the contract read.
The contract terms specifically required the firm to provide an environment that would enhance the US-Nigeria relations, “with a special focus on the coming months on maintaining political and security conditions free of intimidation and interference in order to ensure the success and fairness of Nigeria’s national election for president in 2019.
“Whereas, the Client wishes to retain the services of the Firm in order that the Firm may provide strategic consulting and advocacy services to the Client in connection with its relations with the United States government, and whereas, the Firm wishes to provide such representation as the Client May from time to time require and whereas, the parties have agreed to the terms under which the Firm will represent the Client and wish to memorialize their agreement in writing,” the contract detailed.
According to the terms of agreement, the contract became effective on September 21, 2018 and would remain effective until September 20, 2019.
The contract is automatically renewed at its one year of expiration unless any of the parties terminates the agreement with 30 days written notice.
“It shall be the Firm’s duty to consult with the Client and advocate on its behalf those issues the Client deems necessary before the US Federal government,” the agreement states under the clause, Duties of the Firm.
“Issues and objectives may include, but not limited to, enhancement of US – Nigerian relations, strengthening and advancing democratic values and the rule of law in Nigeria with a special focus in the coming months on maintaining political and security conditions free of intimidation and interference in order to ensure the success and fairness of Nigeria’s national election for president in 2019.
“It shall further be the Firm’s duty to inform the Client of development in legislation and policy relevant to the Client’s issues and objectives.
On the duties of the Client, the agreement stated that, “It shall be the Client’s duty to provide the Firm the information necessary to best represent the Client. It shall also be the Client’s duty to timely compensate the Firm for its services.”
The agreement will cost the PDP $90,000 (about N32.7million) payable in quarterly installments in addition to other “reasonable” cost such as registration fees, hotel, air fare, car services and meals.
“The fee shall be paid in quarterly installment of $270,000 with the first installment being due immediately upon the execution of this agreement,” further details of the agreement revealed.
“Second installment due on December 21, 2018; third installment due on March 21, 2019; fourth installment due on June 21, 2019, and continuing to be due on a quarterly basis until the termination of the agreement. The Firm will bill cost quarterly.”
It is noteworthy that Ballard was President Donald Trump’s lobbyist during his election as president of the United States, and his role has been allegedly linked to the controversial interference of the Russian authorities in the last US presidential election.
The PDP and Mr Saraki’s hiring of lobbying firms based in the US indicates how seriously the party and its leaders view the coming elections, analysts say.
SARAKI’S NATIONAL ASSEMBLY NOT LEFT OUT
Showing further penchant for foreign lobbyists, the National Assembly under the chairmanship of Mr Saraki also procured the services of a US-based lobbyist, Husch Blackwell Strategies, based in Washington D.C, as a government affairs consultant to provide services relating to creating an environment between members of the Nigerian legislature and officials of the US Government.
The contract was signed by the Director General of the National Institute of Legislative Studies, NILS, Ladi Hamalai, on behalf of the National Assembly and Gegg Harley, chief executive officer of HBS.
The agreement between HBS and the National Assembly became effective on February 15, 2018 and involves HBS organising an exchange visit and training for members of the National Assembly in the US.
The firm is also expected to organise meetings between members of the National Assembly and key congressional members and leaders in the United States such as the Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, President Pro Tempore and such other representatives from the US Congress.
HBS, by the agreement, is also expected to organise “technical sessions for members of the National Assembly of the federal Republic of Nigeria and members of the United States Congress which may include discussions in the area of trade and investment, the development of the electoral process, the role of Congress in foreign policy, and security.”
HBS is responsible for providing the National Assembly with “only government relations and educational services and will not provide legal services to NILS, notwithstanding that some of the personnel who provide services under this agreement may be lawyers.”
For the professional services of the firm, the National Assembly is expected to pay the sum of $20,750 (about N7.4million) for the task of organising visits and training sessions for the Nigerian delegation, which will not be more than 13 persons. The agreement stipulated that an additional person would attract $1,500 per person.
“Upon signature of the consulting agreement, NILS may apply for an advance by bank transfer of a minimum of US$15,000 only and the remainder of the balance upon arrival of the delegation,” a part of the agreement states.
“All amounts paid under this consulting agreement shall be deemed earned you and payable to the operating account of HBS after the tasks set out in Section 3(I)-(II) have been completed.
“Funds to cover all of the remaining reimbursables will be paid upon receipt of an invoice and scanned copies of original receipts Payment of any expenses incurred by HBS shall be made by NILS not later that 30 days after receipt of HBS’s statement, invoice and other necessary documents.”
When contacted, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, declined to comment on the deal with Ballard, saying the issues had been overtaken by events.
In the same vein, Special Adviser on Media to Mr Saraki, Yusuf Olaniyonu, did not answer or return calls when PREMIUM TIMES contacted him to get his principal’s response.
He also did not reply a text message sent to him on the matter.