Godson Nnaka, the United States-based attorney involved in the controversy over the repatriation of $550 million Abacha loot, has absolved himself of responsibility in the delay of the funds being returned to Nigeria.
Mr. Nnaka was recruited in 2004 by the Nigerian government to recover funds stolen by late dictator Sani Abacha. He had instituted a case in a U.S. district court seeking 40 per cent of the recovered loot. He also asked to be made the funds’ exclusive attorney.
He was kicked out of the fund recovery case after he had spent money and time to find and recover the funds.
He also alleged that Nigeria’s Attorney General, Abubakar Malami, jilted him after he turned down his demand to part with a kickback of as much as 70 per cent of his fee in order to access documentations needed for him to act on behalf of the country.
He also threatened to sue the minister for defamation if he did not desist from making false claims about him. He had given Mr Malami 48 hours to publish an apology in PREMIUM TIMES and or be prepared to be slammed with a defamation charge.
However, a statement by Mr. Malami on Monday explained that according to the U.S. law, when stolen funds are discovered, the U.S. Department of Justice would first approach a court for the forfeiture of the funds to the U.S. government. If the court ruled in favour of the DOJ, the U.S. government, at the end of the process, would repatriate the money to the country from which the funds were stolen.
The AGF then claimed that Mr Nnaka’s suit demanding to be paid for representing Nigeria was the only thing standing in the way of the recovered loot being repatriated to the country.
Mr. Nnaka, in a statement released by his lawyer, Bennett Amadi, on Wednesday, replied that it was Mr Malami’s “corruption” and “greed” which was preventing the repatriation of the funds. He said all he was asking was to be paid for the services he rendered to Nigeria.
“Let it be noted that Nnaka is neither delaying the return of the Abacha loot to Nigeria nor attempting to extort anything from Nigeria. Rather, it is “corruption” and the selfishness and greed of Abubakar Malami that is centrally delaying the quick and safe return of the funds to Nigeria and to Nigerians. As it is commonsensical that every labourer is entitled to his wages, Nnaka is only asking to be paid for his services that he responsibly rendered and benefitted Nigeria with, and the cost and expenses incurred over several years pursuant to his agreement with the Federal Republic of Nigeria regarding the aforesaid loots.”
The statement claimed that since 2013, Mr. Nnaka had reached out to the Nigeria government on several occasions to ensure the funds are speedily returned to the country but he has repeatedly confronted a stonewall.
“However, it is the selfish, rapacity, bad faith, corruption and arrogance of the Nigerian Government officials, Abubakar Malami inclusive, that has forced Nnaka to recently approach the court in the United States to obtain justice. To be precise, when in April 2014, Nnaka and his team filed for the intervention and claim on behalf of Nigeria seeking for the prompt and safe repatriation of the loots to Nigeria to brief the then Attorney-general, Mr Adoke, and other government officials.
But for their deliberate inaction and corruption, the issue would have since been resolved. Following the election of President Muhammadu Buhari in May of 2015, Nnaka, in August of 2015 wrote to President Buhari seeking his intervention to ensure the prompt resolution of this matter. Nnaka also sought the assistance of well-placed Nigerians and even Senators to ensure the return of these Abacha loots back to Nigeria. All his efforts met brick-walls.”
The statement added that Mr. Nnaka’s representatives wrote to Mr. Malami on two occasions – November 17, 2015 and in February 2016 – asking him for an amicable settlement to his claim. He said Mr. Malami fixed a meeting with his representatives in Washington DC in April 2016, but when it became obvious that he was not going to dance to the AGF’s alleged demand for kickback, Mr. Malami cancelled the meeting and appointed a new lawyer for the case.
“Mr. Malami handed over the matter to a new lawyer who knew nothing about the case, for obvious selfish reasons. Faced with such arrogance, greed and selfishness, Nnaka perfected his appeal and petitioned the court for justice. So where in the world is Nnaka responsible for the delay in the return of the loots? Why can’t Nigerians be told the truth? What exactly does Mr Abubakar Malami intend to achieve in his present name-calling and image laundering antics? Does it bother him at all that Nigerian are wiser and more intelligent than he believes or thinks that they are?,” he asked.
“If Mr. Malami is sincere about the immediate and safe return of the present loots to Nigeria and to Nigerians, he knows exactly what to do instead of jumping from one newspaper house to another, Attorney General Malami and/or his attorneys for Nigeria are welcome to contact this office so that we may reasonably exchange ideas for the quick and immediate resolution of the issue in this matter and for quick return of these funds to Nigeria and Nigerians.
Mr. Malami and his lawyers know the telephone numbers and emails of this office. As always, our office is open to Mr. Malami and his lawyers for the sincere discussion and resolution of this matter. The present situation in Nigeria earnestly affirms that this matter should be sensibly looked into and resolved now so that these looted funds should go back to Nigeria without any further delay, and Nigeria can expand efforts to recover additional ones estimated at $20 billion in the next eighteen months.
“If the government of Nigeria fails to take advantage of this window, then Mr. Abubakar Malami should stop deceiving Nigerians with self-serving propaganda and tired image laundering antics, shut up and allow the United States Court to speak on this matter and render justice as it deems fit and proper. The matter is currently in court. Attorney General Malami should understand that civil litigation is not conducted on the pages of newspapers,” he added.