Nige­ria to Re­ceive An­other $500 Mil­lion Abacha Loot

AGF: Buhari not bound to con­sult be­fore con­fer­ring na­tional honours Says process of amend­ing Na­tional Hol­i­days Act to ac­com­mo­date June 12 has be­gun

THISDAY - - FRONT PAGE - Omololu Ogun­made in Abuja

The Fed­eral Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil (FEC) rose from its weekly meet­ing in the State House Abuja yes­ter­day with cheery news of the forth­com­ing repa­tri­a­tion of $500 mil­lion loot from United King­dom, United States and France to Nige­ria.

The money was part of the huge sums stolen by the for­mer despotic leader, Gen. Sani Abacha.

Mak­ing the dis­clo­sure while brief­ing jour­nal­ists at the end of the meet­ing, the At­tor­ney Gen­eral of the Fed­er­a­tion (AGF) and Min­is­ter of Jus­tice,

Malam Abubakar Malami, said the move was the fall­out of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the three coun­tries.

Ac­cord­ing to him, the ex­pected sum is com­ing barely few months af­ter the repa­tri­a­tion of $322 mil­lion Abacha loot to Nige­ria from Switzer­land fol­low­ing an agree­ment signed by Nige­ria and Switzer­land.

Malami who said the pro­cesses lead­ing to the repa­tri­a­tion and the after­math were re­ported to the coun­cil yes­ter­day, also dis­closed that the coun­cil ap­proved the pay­ment of N500 mil­lion as le­gal fee to lawyers en­gaged in the lit­i­ga­tion be­tween the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and MTN over the N1 tril­lion fine im­posed on the lat­ter by the Nige­ria Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion (NCC).

"The coun­cil ap­proved the pay­ment of pro­fes­sional fees to lawyers en­gaged by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment re­lat­ing to the MTN case in­sti­tuted against the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in pur­suance of penalty of over N1 tril­lion im­posed by the gov­ern­ment on MTN.

"MTN, as you will re­call, in­sti­tuted a case seek­ing to re­train the fed­eral gov­ern­ment from re­cov­er­ing the over N1 tril­lion im­posed on it. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment en­gaged the ser­vices of lawyers to put up de­fence on its be­half. As a re­sult, the case was even­tu­ally set­tled by the par­ties am­i­ca­bly and aris­ing from that set­tle­ment the lawyers were en­ti­tled to their fees.

"The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has now sanc­tioned the pay­ment of N500 mil­lion for the N330

bil­lion agreed upon for the al­leged cer­tain breaches in their oper­a­tions. This amount is less than one per­cent of the fee in­stead of the in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised fee which is pegged at five per cent.

"Fi­nally was a re­port on the global fo­rum on as­sets re­cov­ery. You will re­call that in De­cem­ber 2017, fed­eral gov­ern­ment par­tic­i­pated in global fo­rum on as­set re­cov­ery in Wash­ing­ton DC and dur­ing that fo­rum, Nige­ria and Switzer­land signed agree­ment that paved way for the repa­tri­a­tion of $322 mil­lion re­lat­ing to looted as­sets and on the ac­count of that the amount was even­tu­ally repa­tri­ated back to Nige­ria.

"What tran­spired was only re­ported back to the coun­cil to­day. The re­port to­day was not only about the sign­ing of the agree­ment but the re­port of the even­tual repa­tri­a­tion of the amount of money that was signed and agreed to be repa­tri­ated dur­ing the fo­rum.

"Nige­ria has also en­gaged other coun­tries in­clud­ing the UK, US, France and oth­ers in fur­ther ne­go­ti­a­tions re­lat­ing to repa­tri­a­tion and I am happy to re­port that we are al­most con­clud­ing the pro­cesses re­lat­ing to the repa­tri­a­tion of ad­di­tional $500 mil­lion," Malami said.

Malami also re­sponded to ques­tions on the le­gal­ity and le­git­i­macy of the dec­la­ra­tion of June 12 as a pub­lic hol­i­day, as well as the con­fer­ment of posthu­mous awards on the late Chief MKO Abi­ola and Chief Gani Fawe­hinmi as well as Am­bas­sador Baba Gana Kin­gibe.

The pres­i­dent had on June 6, pro­claimed June 12 as the new Democ­racy Day, re­plac­ing the hith­erto May 29 Democ­racy in ac­knowl­edge­ment of June 12, 1993 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion de­scribed as the freest and fairest in Nige­ria's his­tory and won by the late busi­ness mag­nate, Chief MKO Abi­ola but un­justly an­nulled by for­mer mil­i­tary pres­i­dent, Gen­eral Ibrahim Ba­bangida.

Con­se­quently, the pres­i­dent con­ferred the high­est hon­our of the Grand Com­man­der of the Fed­eral Repub­lic (GCFR) on Abi­ola on Tues­day.

He also con­ferred the award of the Grand Com­man­der of the Or­der of Nige­ria (GCON) on Abi­ola's run­ning mate, Kin­gibe, and Chief Gani Fawe­hinmi posthu­mously in recog­ni­tion of his gal­lant fight for the ac­tu­al­i­sa­tion of June 12 man­date.

But the moves had been crit­i­cised by some Nige­ri­ans who ar­gued that the pres­i­dent lacked the power to pro­claim June 12 as pub­lic hol­i­day with­out amend­ing Pub­lic Hol­i­days Act to pave way for the re­place­ment of May 29 with June 12 as the new Democ­racy Day.

The pres­i­dent was also crit­i­cised for uni­lat­er­ally con­fer­ring the na­tional honours on the re­cip­i­ents with­out con­sult­ing the Na­tional Coun­cil of State.

But Malami in his de­fence, said the pres­i­dent was only duty bound to con­sult the Gov­ern­ing Board in re­la­tion to the con­fer­ment of the Na­tional Merit Award, in­sist­ing that there is no law com­pelling the pres­i­dent to make any con­sul­ta­tion be­fore con­fer­ring na­tional honours on any­one.

Malami also stated that it was not the first time that a posthu­mous na­tional honours award was con­ferred on any­one, point­ing out that for­mer Head of State, Gen. Mur­tala Muhammed, had once been posthu­mously hon­oured.

How­ever, he ad­mit­ted that Pub­lic Hol­i­days Act needed to be amended be­fore June 12 Democ­racy Day can come into ef­fect as a pub­lic hol­i­day. Con­se­quently, he said the process of amend­ing the Act had al­ready been put in place and the dec­la­ra­tion would not be ef­fec­tive un­til the amend­ment is con­cluded.

"Na­tional Merit Award Act and the Nige­rian Na­tional Honours Act are two dis­tinct and dif­fer­ent ap­pli­ca­ble laws as far as Na­tional honours awards are con­cerned. You have the Na­tional Merit Award on the strength of which we have the law of the gov­ern­ing board come into ef­fect and then as it re­lates to the Na­tional Honours Act, the board does not have any rel­e­vance in terms of pro­cess­ing of the honours.

"Above all, we equally have in ex­is­tence, a prece­dent as it re­lates to the award of posthu­mous honours. I can re­call that a for­mer Head of State, Gen­eral Muhammed was equally hon­oured posthu­mously, among oth­ers.

"As it re­lates to pub­lic hol­i­days, there is truly a Pub­lic Hol­i­days Act, but it is about the process of amend­ment. At any rate, the Act can be amended and the process of amend­ment has been put in place.

"So, when the Act has been fully amended, the dec­la­ra­tion of the Pres­i­dent will come into ef­fect. It is a dec­la­ra­tion of in­ten­tion, a dec­la­ra­tion of de­sire and that will even­tu­ally be given ef­fect with the act of amend­ment of the ex­ist­ing law," he said.

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