A United States District Court, yesterday, dismissed a case by a Nigerian lawyer seeking to stop the repatriation of over $550 million of stolen funds during the regime of late General Sani Abacha (referred to as the Abacha loot) to Nigeria until the payment of his legal fees worth $320 million by the Nigerian Government.
The thrashing of the case by Justice John D. Bates of the U.S District Court automatically clears the final legal hurdle for the return of the loot to Nigeria to help it retool its plummeting economy which has received heavy pummelling from falling oil prices and corruption.
The U.S-based Nigerian lawyer, Godson Nnaka, had laid claim to the fact that the Nigerian Government must pay him the $320 million as legal fee for the forfeiture of the $550 million of the Abacha loot still trapped in the United States.
But Justice John D. Bates, in dismissing Nnaka’s case, held the claimant was not entitled to such payment since he was not a party to the forfeiture case filed by the US Department of Justice in conjunction with Nigeria.
Nigeria, through the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, also filed a robust opposition to Nnaka’s motion for the payment of the lien and also asked the court to bar Nnaka from making subsequent filings in that case.
Ruling on the case, the District Court entered an order denying Nnaka’s Motion for a Charging Lien (fee). The Court also specifically ruled that Nnaka’s participation in this case must now come to an end.”
Justice Bates said that Nnaka did not meet the basic prerequisites to be considered as a proper party in the case and to be paid the amount he requested for, having not qualified to represent Nigeria.
The judge also ruled out Nnaka for the payment since he had not won any judgment for Nigeria.
Justice Bates said in his ruling last night that “Neither Nnaka nor his purported clients are parties to the forfeiture matter and neither of them can win judgment through this litigation.
“The conclusion dooms Nnaka’s motion for charging lien. At common law, the charging of lien is applicable to a judgment or decree obtained for a client by an attorney. Until a judgment or decree has been obtained, the right to impose a lien does not arise.
“Even the most basic prerequisites for charging lien are missing here: Nnaka has not won a judgment for Nigeria; indeed, he had not successfully entered appearance on Nigeria’s behalf. A charging lien in the amount of $320 million is not called for. Nnaka’s claim against Nigeria must be pursued in another case: 16cv-1400.
“Unless and until Nnaka’s claim to the defendant’s assets are reinstated by the DC Circuit, Nnaka’s participation in this case must now come to an end,” the U.S judge ruled, paving the way for Nigeria to draw down its huge cash.
It will be recalled that Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who was in the U.S for the judgment, had recently raised the alarm that Nnaka was merely trying to delay the return of the Abacha loot by the U.S, by making a frivolous claim that Nigeria must pay him 40 percent of the Abacha loot.
Nnaka had also claimed that Malami was working against him after he had refused to relinquish “70 percent” of his 40 percent to the minister.
But in responding to the allegation, Malami described Nnaka as a strange person to the case who had not recovered a dime for Nigeria since he was allegedly given a mandate by the former Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Olujimi, to recover the Abacha loot in 2004.
Malami, in a 44-page document made available earlier, described Nnaka as a man trying to reap from where he did not sow.
The minister said the Nigerian Government would not pay Nnaka the huge amount he is asking for since he is not qualified to practise law in the Maryland area where the case is taking place and did not recover any money for the country 14 years after he was given a provisional letter to help locate and recover the Abacha loot.
The court had also held that since the temporary letter given to Nnaka by Olujimi was not revalidated by Mohammed Adoke when the forfeiture case resumed in 2013, the lawyer could, therefore, not claim to be representing Nigeria.
But Nnaka immediately rejected the court verdict and appealed against the ruling and threatened to sue Malami for saying that he was not qualified to represent Nigeria and was not entitled to 40 percent of the Abacha loot. The litany of cases filed by Nnaka and the appeal by the US Department of Justice, in conjunction with Nigeria, directly delayed the repatriation of the huge cash from the U.S to Nigeria.
Upon persistent inquiry, Malami told Sunday Vanguard from the venue of the hearing in the U.S that he was hopeful that with the dismissal of the frivolous case by Nnaka, efforts would be intensified to bring back the Abacha loot.
“We trust that this Order denying Nnaka’s frivolous claim to the Abacha assets, will help to allay the fear of the Nigerian general public arising from an online medium’s article which stated that Nigeria stands to lose $320 million on account of Nnaka’s Motion.
“We also hope that this Order will help to correct the many falsehoods and half-truths published in the past against the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation regarding this matter.
“This is a positive development for Nigeria,” the AGF said.
EFCC Finally Arrests Okorocha After Hours of Siege, Gives Reason
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has finally arrested the All Progressives Congress’ presidential candidate and former governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha after laying siege on his residence for hours.
Security operatives attached to the EFCC had surrounded the residence of the former governor earlier on Tuesday and before they finally arrested him late in the evening.
Investors King can confirm that lots of gunshots and tear gas canisters were fired to disperse angry supporters of the lawmaker who tried to resist the arrest before he was finally arrested.
According to an official of the anti-graft agency, Okorocha will be taken to the headquarters of the commission where he will be until May 30 when he will be arraigned in court.
In an official statement obtained by Investors King, signed by the EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, “the move to arrest Okorocha was followed by the refusal of the former governor to honour invitations after jumping the administrative bail earlier granted him by the Commission.
“EFCC had on January 24, 2022, filed a 17-count criminal charge bordering on diversion of public funds and properties to the tune of N2.9bn against Okorocha.
“The case was assigned to Honourable Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja but attempts to arraign Senator Okorocha was twice stalled owing to the absence of the ex-governor who evaded service of processes”.
EFCC added that at the last adjourned date, March 28th 2022, Justice Ekwo, before adjourning until May 30th, 2022, had warned that it was “the last adjournment I shall grant in this matter”.
“In the circumstances, the Commission is left with no option but to effect the arrest of Senator Okorocha and bring him to trial”, the statement had read.
Russia Halts Supply of Gas to Finland, Disagrees on Payment Mode
Russia’s majority state-owned multinational energy corporation, PJSC Gazprom, on Saturday, halted gas exports to one of its neighbouring countries, Finland, in the latest escalation of an energy payments dispute with Western nations.
A statement released by Finland’s gas system operator, Gasgrid said: “Gas imports through Imatra entry point have been stopped.
“Starting from today, during the upcoming summer season, Gasum will supply natural gas to its customers from other sources through the Balticconnector pipeline”.
Investors King gathered that majority of the European supply contracts are denominated in Euros or Dollars and Moscow already cut off gas to Bulgaria and Poland last month after they refused to comply with the new payment terms.
Imatra is the entry point for Russian gas into Finland and even though majority of the gas used in Finland comes from Russia, gas only accounts for about five per cent of its annual energy consumption.
Gazprom Export has requested that European countries pay for Russian gas supplies in Russian currency (roubles) because of sanctions imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, but Finland refuses to do so.
Gazprom Export, on Friday, said: “flows would be cut because Gasum had not complied with the new Russian rules requiring settlement in roubles.”
Earlier on Friday, the Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler, Gasum had said the Russian Gazprom warned that flows would be halted from 04:00 GMT on Saturday morning.
The decision is coming at a time when Finland and Sweden announced that they were going to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) military alliance, a decision inspired by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Last week, the Finish Prime minister, Sanna Marin had said: “When we look at Russia, we see a very different kind of Russia today than we saw just a few months ago.
“Everything changed when Russia attacked Ukraine. And I personally think that we cannot trust anymore that there will be a peaceful future next to Russia.”
Marin noted that joining NATO is “an act of peace [so] that there will never again be war in Finland in the future”.
According to Swedish leader Andersson, “to ensure the safety of Swedish people, the best way forward is to join NATO together with Finland”.
The announcements were met with support from leaders in almost all NATO nations.
US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken told reporters that the United States would strongly support the NATO application by either Sweden or Finland should they choose to formally apply to the alliance.
Investors King recalls that Russia had in April, announced the suspension of gas supply to Poland and Bulgaria on the same payment disputes.
FG Resumes Conditional Cash Transfer Programme Across Six Local Govt. In Kebbi
The Federal Government has resumed the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme in Kebbi State, commencing with a payment of N9.24bn to 76,107 CCT beneficiaries.
The National Coordinator of the programme, Hajiya Halima Shehu, made the announcement during a state visit to Governor Atiku Bagudu in Birnin Kebbi.
“As at now, payment to CCT beneficiaries is ongoing in the state. A total number of 76,107 beneficiaries across six local government areas of Bagudu, Danko, Wasagu, Dandi, Jega, and Shanga, will be receiving the payment. The beneficiaries will be receiving 26 months of payment circles, starting from January to February 2020.
“The payment will be in two batches of those 60,000 beneficiaries for four payment cycles, using the virtual account. The second batch has 70,107 beneficiaries for nine payment cycles through the debit cards. The total amount for the two batches in the state, according to Shehu, was over N9.24 billion.
“The Federal Government of Nigeria, in partnership with the World Bank in 2016, designed and developed a safety net programme for Nigeria under the platform of National Social Safety Net Programme (NASSP).
“One of the components of NASSP is the national conditional cash transfer office responsible for implementing the household uplifting- conditional cash transfer to the poor and the vulnerable households across the country,” she said.
Shehu commended the governor for providing her an audience and the chance to update him on the commencement of payments and the state’s successful implementation of the program.
Responding, Gov. Bagudu, represented by his Deputy, Alhaji Samaila Yombe-Dabai, thanked the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, headed by Hajiya Sadiya Umar-Farouq, for actualising the programme in the state.
“I assure you that the state government will do all it takes to support the success of the programme in the state.
“We are looking forward to getting more local governments to be involved in the cash transfer programme,” Bagudu said.
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