- 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.
Gov Emmanuel Attracts $1.4b Fertilizer Plant to Akwa Ibom
The Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Mr. Udom Emmanuel has signed an agreement for the citing of a multi billion fertilizer plant in his State.
Governor Emmanuel was part of a Nigerian delegation led by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, that visited Morocco to set out the next steps of the $1.4 Bln fertilizer production plant project launched in June 2018.
The agreement between the OCP Africa, the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority and the Akwa Ibom State Government will birth one of the biggest investments in the fertilizer production industry worldwide.
The signing ceremony took place at the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UMP6).
Mr. Emmanuel signed one of the agreements of the partnership, which covers a memorandum of understanding between OCP Africa, the Akwa Ibom State in Nigeria and the NSIA on land acquisition, administrative facilitation, and common agricultural development projects in the Akwa Ibom State.
Speaking while signing the agreement, Governor Emmanuel said, “Our state is receptive to investments and we are prepared to offer the necessary support to make the project a reality.
“With a site that is suitably located to enable operational logistics and an abundance of gas resources, all that is left is for the parties to accelerate the project development process”, Mr. Udom said.
The agreement reached between the Nigerian Government and the OCP further links OCP, Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN), the NNPC, the Gas Aggregation Company Nigeria (GACN), and the NSIA.
The two partners agreed to strengthen further their solid partnership leveraging Nigerian gas and the Moroccan phosphate.
This project will lead to a multipurpose industrial platform in Nigeria, which will use Nigerian gas and Moroccan phosphate to produce 750,000 tons of ammonia and 1 million tons of phosphate fertilizers annually by 2025.
The visit of the Nigerian delegation to Morocco takes place within the frame of the partnership sealed between OCP Group and the Nigerian Government to support and develop Nigeria’s agriculture industry.
Following the success of the first phase of Nigeria‘s Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) and the progress of the fertilizer production plant project launched in 2018 by OCP and NSIA, the Moroccan phosphates group and the Nigerian government delegation have agreed on the next steps of their joint project which is rapidly taking shape.
Several cooperation agreements were inked on Tuesday at the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University (UM6P) by OCP Africa and the Nigerian delegation. Through these deals, OCP reaffirms its unwavering support of agricultural development initiatives in Nigeria including PFI.
OCP Africa and the NSIA have agreed, inter alia, to set up a joint venture which will oversee the development of the industrial platform that will produce ammonia and fertilizers in Nigeria.
The OCP has also pledged to supply Nigerian famers with quality fertilizers adapted to the needs of their soil at competitive prices and produced locally.
ICPC Says Nigeria Loses $10bn to Illicit Financial Flows
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) says Nigeria accounts for 20 per cent or 10 billion dollars (N3.8 trillion) of the estimated 50 billion dollars that Africa loses to Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs).
Chairman of ICPC, Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye, said this during a virtual meeting to review a report on IFFs in relation to tax, Mrs Azuka Ogugua, spokesperson for ICPC, said in a statement released in Abuja on Friday.
The ICPC Chairman said, “the African Union Illicit Financial Flow Report estimated that Africa is losing nearly 50 billion dollars through profit shifting by multinational corporations and about 20 per cent of this figure is from Nigeria alone.”
The ICPC boss explained that taxes played “very strategic role in the nation’s political economy.”
He said the objective of the meeting was to improve on the awareness on IFFs, especially in the areas of taxation.
The ICPC boss added that the meeting would give participants the opportunity to openly discuss how to effectively use the instrumentality of taxation to curb IFFs through risk-based approach.
“Risk-based approach, that is: monitoring and audit; due process in tax collection; structured tax amnesty framework skewed in public interest; data privacy; timely resolution of audits and payment of tax refunds and intelligence sharing among revenue generating, regulatory and law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Owasanoye also stated that for the contemporary tax man to remain relevant, he must build his capacity in areas of technology management, solution architects and an astute relationship manager.
The Executive Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) Mr Muhammad Nani, expressed concerns that IFFs posed a serious threat to the Nigerian economy as the act robbed the nation of resources that were needed for development.
Nani declared that tackling IFFs would expand the country’s tax base and improve revenue generation, which was required for development.
He consequently pushed for policy reforms that would make it difficult for “capital flights” from occurring so that the country would be placed on the path of growth.
Other discussants at the event identified weak regulatory framework, opacity of financial system and lack of capacity amongst others as some of the factors that fuelled IFFs.
The discussants emphasised the need for capacity building of relevant stakeholders as one of the ways to stamp out illicit financial flows.
They commended ICPC for leveraging its corruption prevention mandate to open a new vista in IFFs discourse in Nigeria. (NAN)
African Development Bank, Egypt Signs Agreements Worth €109 Million to Transform Sewage Coverage in Rural Areas
The African Development Bank Group has signed financing agreements of €109 million with the Government of Egypt to improve sanitation infrastructure and services for rural communities in Luxor Governorate in Egypt’s Upper Nile region.
The financing consists of a €108 million loan from the Bank, and a grant of €1 million from the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Initiative (RWSSI) – an Africa-wide initiative hosted by the African Development Bank.
The funding, provided in a challenging global context, will help meet the Egyptian government’s financing requirements in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and support a sound water and sanitation infrastructure base, a key enabler for the country’s inclusive development.
The Integrated Rural Sanitation in Upper Egypt-Luxor (IRSUE-Luxor) project is set to boost sewage coverage in the region from 6% to 55%, improving the quality of life of citizens, including women and children, who are most affected by poor sanitation.
“Promoting efficient, equitable and sustainable economic development through integrated water resources management is a priority for the Government of Egypt. The IRSUE-Luxor initiative unlocks the socio-economic development potential for inclusive and green growth,” said Rania Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, who signed the agreements on behalf of the Egyptian government.
About 22,000 households (240,000 inhabitants) will benefit from on-site and off-site facilities, through an integrated system of sewerage networks, sludge treatment and wastewater treatment plants.
IRSUE-Luxor contributes to the National Rural Sanitation Program established by the Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities, which aims to expand nationwide access to sanitation services from 34% currently to 60% in 2030.
The project also complements the national Haya Karima (Decent Life) initiative that aims to help rural communities across Egypt access essential infrastructure services to improve their living conditions and livelihoods.
Furthermore, the project includes a staff training component to strengthen performance within the Luxor Water and Wastewater Company.
“This intervention is not just about infrastructure development. An essential part of the project is supporting ongoing sector reforms,” said Malinne Blomberg, the Bank’s Deputy Director General for North Africa.
One of several initiatives supported by the African Development Bank in Egypt to optimize the use of the country’s water resources, IRSUE-Luxor will enable about 30,000 cubic meters of treated wastewater per day to be discharged into drainage and irrigation canals and re-used to enhance agricultural output.
The initiative is in line with the Bank’s water sector policy, which promotes efficient, equitable and sustainable development through integrated water resources management. In addition, the operation supports tariff regulation to achieve full cost recovery, which is one of the basic principles of the Bank’s water sector policy.
The partnership between Egypt and the African Development Bank Group dates back more than half a century. More than 100 operations have been deployed, mobilizing more than $6 billion across multiple strategic sectors.
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