The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has refused to come out clean on a certain $370 million being part of the loot traced to former Head of State, Sani Abacha, in United Kingdom, which was returned to the country around December 2018.
SaharaReporters obtained official correspondences between the defunct Special Presidential Investigation Panel headed by Okoi Obono-Obla, and the UK in December 2018, confirming that the money would be repatriated to the country.
SaharaReporters gathered that Malami, however, at a stage asked Obono-Obla to hands off the repatriation process, and it remained so until the panel was later dissolved by the Presidency.
The then SPIP Chairman, Obono-Obla, had in December 2018, written to the Central Bank of Nigeria, requesting a domiciliary account to be opened for the recovery for the $370 million from the state of Jersey in the UK.
The correspondence was addressed to the CBN Director, Banking and Payments System Department, on December 18, 2018.
It was titled, “Request for permission to open a domiciliary bank account for recovery of $370 million from the Office of the Attorney-General of the States of Jersey Unietd Kingdom for onward remittance to the Treasury Single Account (TSA) of Our Panel.”
The correspondence was also copied to the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation.
The SPIP Chairman wrote, “As directed by your letter dated September 25, 2017, on procedure for enforcement of GIFMIS Revenue number, we write to request your written approval to open a domiciliary bank account with a Nigerian Deposit Money Bank which has a branch in the United Kingdom which will then remit to the TSA with CBN.
“The purpose is to assist our panel recover the sum of $370 million from the Office of the Attorney-General of the State of Jersey, UK, this is part of the Abacha loot.”
SaharaReporters learnt from competent sources that the AGF, Malami, intervened in the process and asked the SPIP then to hands off on the $370 million.
“I was privy to the initial efforts to recover this sum by Obono-Obla, but Malami wrote and asked Obono-Obla to hands off,” the source revealed.
SaharaReporters obtained another correspondence which was written by SPIP Chairman, Obono-Obla then to the UK Attorney-General, Hon Robert MacRae, from the State of Jersey, introducing one Dr Tonye Jaja as the officer to handle the process of repatriation before the AGF later stepped in.
It was titled “Introduction of Dr Tonye Clinton Jaja and Recovery of $370,000,000 to the Federal Government of Nigeria.” It was dated December 18, 2018.
Obono-Obla had written, “Permit me to introduce Dr Tonye Clinton Jaja, he is a lawyer who has recently been appointed as the UK Desk Officer for international recovery of assets for one of the anti-corruption agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria (The Special Presidential Investigation Panel), this agency was established by an Act of the National Assmebly of Nigeria namely the Recovery of Public Property (Special provisions) Act 1984. A letter of his appointment will be presented upon request.
“As chairman of our agency, I have directed that Dr Jaja hand deliver a letter to your office in Jersey. Please, kindly confirm by way of a formal letter of invitation a date when it is convenient for him. You can also confirm from the Nigerian High Commission in the UK or from the UK High Commission in Abuja, Nigeria.
“Please I kindly request your kind assistance and cooperation since Dr Jaja is newly appointed to his field and his job description would require your kind assistance and cooperation in tracing and identifying assets and funds looted or stolen by Nigerian public officials and their proxies.
“During his visit, he would like to discuss the modalities for repatriation of the $300 million that is in the custody of the state of Jersey as reported. Thank you in advance for your prompt and positive response.”
The House of Representatives had earlier on Tuesday been reported as saying it uncovered the illegal payment of N2 billion made by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to the AGF, Malami, for the prosecution of some terrorism suspects.
At its sitting on Tuesday, the House ad hoc committee probing the status of recovered loot had queried Malami on the funds which they said they never approved as a budgetary allocation.
The lawmakers had also tackled the minister of justice for allegedly requesting payment of approved solicitors’ fees from the recovered loot.
Adejoro Adeogun, chairman of the committee, had said, “The honourable AGF is requesting payment of approved solicitors’ fees. You see, you are asking for solicitors’ fees from recovered funds’ accounts. I don’t think it is proper; that is what we are talking about.
“The question I want to ask regards to the payment of N2 billion which you received for the prosecution of terrorism suspects; was it supposed to come from that [recovered funds] account or should it have been part of the budgetary spending? Is it that when you exhaust your budget, you ask these people to send you some money?”
But Malami denied making specific requests from the recovered loot, although he did not deny receiving the said N2 billion from the CBN.
“Where the money comes from is a function of the federal ministry of finance and I am not making specific requests out of the recovered assets,” the embattled AGF had said.