Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, FCT, on Thursday abruptly adjourned proceedings in the case between Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation (CNJF) and the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, over his failure to respond to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request on the engagement of lawyers for the recovery of Abacha loot.
The case, with suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/27/2018, was filed by Kusamotu & Kusamotu law chambers at a Federal High Court in Abuja, on January 10, 2018 to compel the AGF through an order of mandamus to release details of the agreement that led to the recovery and repatriation of $321 million Abacha loot from Luxembourg.
The case has suffered a series of adjournment during which the lawyers newly engaged for the recovery have reportedly been paid another $15 million in legal fees, even though the Swiss lawyer who did the recovery, Enrico Monfrini, said he had completed the job and had been paid as far back as 2014 and that there was no need to engage any lawyer to repatriate the loot from Switzerland, where it was domiciled.
After the series of adjournments, Justice Ekwo had on April 21, 2019, agreed that the motions filed by both sides would be deemed adopted at the next hearing on May 8 after which he would give his judgment even if the counsel to the sides failed to appear in court.
On May 8, counsel to the Cable Foundation, Ayo Kusamotu, along with Racheal Obong who came all the way from Lagos, were in court but there was no legal representation for the AGF. The applicant’s counsel reminded the judge of the order he made on April 21 to deem the respondent’s processes adopted but the judge declined and instead made an order summoning the Solicitor-General of the Federation to appear in court on May 9 (Thursday) to conduct defence on behalf of the AGF.
However, the applicant’s counsel were in court while the AGF was also represented by a counsel who was ready for the hearing of the case. But the judge insisted that no counsel other than the Solicitor-General of the Federation in person would handle defence for the respondent.
On being reminded that the AGF was already represented and no law made it mandatory for the Solicitor-General to represent the AGF in order for the matter to be heard, Justice Ekwo refused to entertain the applicant’s counsel and angrily rose without adjourning the matter to any date.
The FoI request was sent on December 7, 2017 and the AGF’s office acknowledged receipt on December 8, 2017.
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