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Abacha loot: Reps probe proposed payment of $17m to lawyers

The House of Representatives, yesterday, resolved to set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate the payment of $16.9 million to lawyers by Attorney-General of the Federation for the recovery of ‘Abacha loot’.

The committee is also to investigate the controversy surrounding the engagement of Nigerian lawyers for a fee of N6 billion after the actual work had been concluded by another set of lawyers.

The Cable reported that the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, refused to approve the payment of $16.9 million fees to two lawyers for the recovery of the loot worth $321 million, adding that she also wrote a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, raising objections to the payment.

House of Representatives

But the minister has denied being involved in any controversy over the issue.

At yesterday’s plenary, some of the lawmakers who spoke on the matter described Malami’s engagement of the lawyers as “height of injustice.”

The deliberations followed a motion raised by Mark Gbillah, from Benue State, asked the House to carry out a “forensic investigation” on the issue to unravel the circumstances surrounding the controversial deal.

“It will be a conflict of interest if proven that the minister has  initial relationship with the Nigerian lawyers,” he said.

 

Nkem Abonta, from Delta State, wondered why Malami would want to allegedly pay the new lawyers   services “for service they did not render.”

“Somebody wants to create $16 million free money for no job done, at this era? Why is the AGF engaging another lawyer? What kind of change are we talking about? It is the height of injustice coming from the minister,” he said.

Most of the other lawmakers who spoke also talked about the “extra-budgetary expenses usually arising from the ministry of justice.”

Eugene Agbonayinma, from Edo State, however, cautioned his colleagues against “taking sides” on the matter.

“I am not saying the matter should not be investigated but we cannot stand here to call names… we should not take sides,” he said.

Thereafter, the lawyers asked Buhari to suspend the payment of the money to the Nigerian lawyers.

The an ad-hoc committee to investigate the matter is to report back within six weeks.


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