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Abacha Loot: Swiss Lawyer Tackles AGF over N7bn Legal Fees

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  • Abacha Loot: Swiss Lawyer Tackles AGF over N7bn Legal Fees

The Swiss lawyer hired by Nigeria to recover late Sani Abacha’s loot, Enrico Monfrini, has disclosed that the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, is trying to change the facts on the $321 million recovered from Luxembourg.

The Cable had reported how Malami engaged two Nigerian lawyers, Oladipo Okpeseyi and Temitope Adebayo, for a fee of $17 million to do a job already completed by Monfrini.

In an interview with New Telegraph on August 26, Malami, questioning the services of Monfrini, alleged that the President Goodluck Jonathan administration agreed to pay Monfrini 20 to 30 per cent as his fees before the final repatriation of the money to Nigeria-an idea the AGF said the President Muhammadu Buhari administration frowns at.

“And he was indeed paid an amount which was not clear as to the concept and extent of what services he rendered whether this $321 million was part of his facilitation. But a point of interest is that as at the time this government came in, the $321 million was not paid by the Swiss Government,” Malami said in the interview.

Speaking with The Cable, however, Monfrini, a world renowned lawyer, said Malami has chosen to publicly make allegations and statements which tend to smear his reputation.

“I read the content of the article published by the New Telegraph on August 26, 2018, in which Malami is trying through lengthy statements to get people to believe different facts which are, to say the least, untrue,” he said.

Before President Buhari came into office, the Swiss lawyer said he had never heard of any professional fees “of 10 to 20 per cent” paid to lawyers.

According to him, “As far as I am concerned, my fees were always fixed at five per cent or most of the time substantially lower. If one comes to the matter of the $321,000,000, I want to strongly stress the fact that this money was not what Malami calls ‘part of my facilitation.’ It was the money which had illegally been received by some members of the Abacha’s family which I had started to search for as of September 1999; found through researches operated by my firm and myself in Luxembourg in 2000; frozen in said country and finally forfeited thanks to my intervention in Switzerland in December 2014.

“I do not consider that all the enormous work invested by my firm and I in this matter could possibly be quoted as ‘facilitation’.”

Malami, in the interview, said Monfrini was considered to be among others for the recovery of the $321 million, but he was asking for 20 to 30 percent as against the conventional five per cent approved by the federal government.

He said he had, however, convinced Buhari on a 10 to 15 per cent pay for the Swiss lawyer, but Monfrini rejected, insisting on 20 to 30 percent cut, which the president was not going to approve.

“It was against this background that a consortium of lawyers of Nigerian origin now submitted their proposals, and we accepted their letters and they swung into action,” he said, adding that he had already proposed to the ministry of finance for the Nigerian lawyers to be paid a five percent cut from $321 million.

But Monfrini insisted he had already completed this job, and his fees, in about 20 years recovering Abacha’s loot, was around five per cent.

“I sternly deny having ever asked Malami or any other public officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to pay me anything more than the five per cent I was entitled to.

“I also have to repeat that the payment of my fees happened in December 2014 upon receipt by the Geneva Attorney General of $321,000,000 paid by the government of Luxembourg thanks to my intervention.

“It’s equivalently false to state, as Malami does, that at the time this government came in, the $321,000,000 was not paid by the Swiss Government as it was the subject of judicial pending before a court, therefore, to write that this situation was ‘the crux of the matter’ is so untrue that it becomes laughable.

“The truth is that the money was available to the government of Nigeria as early as December 2014, and as I said before, the matter for which Malami chose to appoint two new Nigerian lawyers for fees exceeding $17,000,000 could have been done in writing a letter to the Geneva Attorney General or to the government of Switzerland requesting the money to be paid back to Nigeria. Again, such activity is not to be developed by lawyers but only through diplomatic consultations between States,” he clarified.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Economy

Nigeria’s Growth Forecast Lowered to 3% for 2025, Higher than Most Emerging Markets

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IMF global - Investors King

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected a 3% growth rate for Nigeria in 2025, slightly down from the 3.1% forecasted for 2024.

Despite this slight decline, Nigeria’s projected growth remains higher than that of many emerging markets as detailed in the IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook released on Tuesday.

In comparison, South Africa’s economy is expected to grow by 1.2% in 2025, up from 0.9% this year. Brazil’s growth is projected at 2.4% from 2.1% in 2024, and Mexico’s growth forecast stands at 1.6% for 2025, down from 2.2% in 2024.

However, India is anticipated to see a robust growth of 6.5% in 2025, although this is slightly lower than the 7% forecast for 2024.

The IMF’s projections come as Nigeria undertakes significant monetary reforms. The Central Bank of Nigeria has been working on clearing the foreign exchange backlog, and the federal government recently removed petrol subsidies.

These reforms aim to stabilize the economy, but the country continues to grapple with high inflation and increasing poverty levels, which pose challenges to sustained economic growth.

Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole is expected to see an improvement in growth, with projections of 4.1% in 2025, up from 3.7% in 2024. This regional outlook indicates a modest recovery as economies adjust to global economic conditions.

The IMF report underscores the need for cautious monetary policy. It recommends that central banks in emerging markets avoid easing their monetary stances too early to manage inflation risks and sustain economic growth.

In cases where inflation risks have materialized, central banks are advised to remain open to further tightening of monetary policy.

“Central banks should refrain from easing too early and should be prepared for further tightening if necessary,” the report stated. “Where inflation data encouragingly signal a durable return to price stability, monetary policy easing should proceed gradually to allow for necessary fiscal consolidation.”

The IMF also highlighted the importance of avoiding fiscal slippages, noting that fiscal policies may need to be significantly tighter than previously anticipated in some countries to ensure economic stability.

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Nigeria’s Inflation Rises to 34.19% in June Amid Rising Costs

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Food Inflation - Investors King

Nigeria’s headline inflation rate surged to 34.19% in June 2024, a significant increase from the 33.95% recorded in May.

This rise highlights the continuing pressures on the nation’s economy as the cost of living continues to climb.

On a year-on-year basis, the June 2024 inflation rate was 11.40 percentage points higher than the 22.79% recorded in June 2023.

This substantial increase shows the persistent challenges faced by consumers and businesses alike in coping with escalating prices.

The month-on-month inflation rate for June 2024 was 2.31%, slightly up from 2.14% in May 2024. This indicates that the pace at which prices are rising continues to accelerate, compounding the economic strain on households and enterprises.

A closer examination of the divisional contributions to the inflation index reveals that food and non-alcoholic beverages were the primary drivers, contributing 17.71% to the year-on-year increase.

Housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels followed, adding 5.72% to the inflationary pressures.

Other significant contributors included clothing and footwear (2.62%), transport (2.23%), and furnishings, household equipment, and maintenance (1.72%).

Sectors such as education, health, and miscellaneous goods and services also played notable roles, contributing 1.35%, 1.03%, and 0.57% respectively.

The rural and urban inflation rates also exhibited marked increases. Urban inflation reached 36.55% in June 2024, a rise of 12.23 percentage points from the 24.33% recorded in June 2023.

On a month-on-month basis, urban inflation was 2.46% in June, slightly higher than the 2.35% in May 2024. The twelve-month average for urban inflation stood at 32.08%, up 9.70 percentage points from June 2023’s 22.38%.

Rural inflation was similarly impacted, with a year-on-year rate of 32.09% in June 2024, an increase of 10.71 percentage points from June 2023’s 21.37%.

The month-on-month rural inflation rate rose to 2.17% in June, up from 1.94% in May 2024. The twelve-month average for rural inflation reached 28.15%, compared to 20.76% in June 2023.

The rising inflation rates pose significant challenges for the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as it grapples with balancing monetary policy to rein in inflation while supporting economic growth.

The ongoing pressures from high food prices and energy costs necessitate urgent policy interventions to stabilize the economy and protect the purchasing power of Nigerians.

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Economy

Inflation to Climb Again in June, but at a Reduced Pace, Predicts Meristem

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Nigeria's Inflation Rate - Investors King

As Nigeria awaits the release of the National Bureau of Statistics’ report on June 2024 inflation, economic analysts project that while inflation will continue its upward trajectory, the pace of increase will moderate.

This comes after inflation rose to a 28-year high of 33.95% in May, up from 33.69% in April.

Meristem, a leading financial services company, has forecasted that June’s headline inflation will rise to 34.01%, a slight increase from May’s figure.

The firm attributes this persistent inflationary pressure to ongoing structural challenges in agriculture, high transportation costs, and the continuous depreciation of the naira.

Experts have highlighted several factors contributing to the inflationary trend. Insecurity in food-producing regions and high transportation costs have disrupted supply chains, while the depreciation of the naira has increased importation costs.

In May, food inflation grew at a slower pace, reaching 40.66%, but challenges in the agricultural sector, such as the infestation of tomato leaves, have led to higher prices for staples like tomatoes and yams.

Meristem predicts that food inflation will persist in June, driven by these lingering challenges. Increased demand during the Eid-el-Kabir celebration and rising importation costs are also expected to keep food prices elevated.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile items like food and energy, was at 27.04% in May. Meristem projects it to rise to 27.30% in June.

The firm notes that higher transportation costs and the depreciation of the naira will continue to push core inflation up.

However, they also anticipate a month-on-month moderation in the core index due to a relatively stable naira exchange rate during June, compared to a more significant depreciation in May.

Cowry Assets Management Limited has projected an even higher headline inflation figure of 34.25% for June, citing similar concerns.

The firm notes that over the past year, food prices in Nigeria have soared due to supply chain disruptions, currency depreciation, and climate change impacts on agriculture.

This has made basic staples increasingly unaffordable for many Nigerians, stretching household budgets.

As inflation continues to rise, analysts believe the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will likely hike the benchmark lending rate again.

The CBN’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has raised the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) by 650 basis points this year, bringing it to 26.25% as of May 2024.

At a recent BusinessDay CEO Forum, CBN Governor Dr. Olayemi Cardoso emphasized the MPC’s commitment to tackling inflation, stating that while the country needs growth, controlling inflation is paramount.

“The MPC is not oblivious to the fact that the country does need growth. If these hikes hadn’t been done at the time, the naira would have almost tipped over, so it helped to stabilize the naira. Interest rates are not set by the CBN governor but by the MPC committee composed of independent-minded people. These are people not given to emotion but to data. The MPC clarified that the major issue is taming inflation, and they would do what is necessary to tame it,” Cardoso said.

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