Global Anti-graft Groups Probe Nigeria’s Attorney-General, Malami, Over OPL Asset Recovery

Nigeria’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has been asked to make full disclosure on recovered assets linked to the OPL multi-billion dollar oil scam.

Assets running into billions of dollars have been recovered due to local and international litigations but there is increasing public outrage against the lack of transparency in the process.

The lack of openness in the entire process continues to fuel public suspicion that corrupt officials might manipulate the procedure for personal gains.

A consortium of anti-corruption groups across the world are raising series of fresh questions on the role of Malami and the funding arrangements that Johnson and Johnson, the Nigerian legal firm that has the fiat for all OPL 245 recovery claims, has entered into with Drumcliffe Partners, a U.S. litigation fund, to finance various OPL 245 related asset recovery cases.

On Sunday, the Corner House, Global Witness, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) and Re-Common through a letter to Malami launched a filament of global campaigns for transparency in the quantum of assets recovered from the scam, which lid had been blown open.

In the petition, the groups raised 25 critical questions for Malami.

“Nigerians need to know assets recovered relating to the OPL 245 scam. This is one of the most significant corruption cases in Nigeria involving billions of dollars in stolen funds used by political figures to procure assets kept across the world. It is important that Nigerians and the international community know how many assets have been recovered”, the groups said in the jointly signed statement on Sunday.

Following earlier media publications by the group titled “The Ministry of Justice Needs To Get Its Act Together On Asset Recovery” raising questions about the Ministry of Justice’s handling of asset recovery and damages claims, particularly in relation to the OPL 245 corruption scandal, Global Witness was contacted by Montfort Communications, a public relations firm that defends the legal team of the Nigerian Government.

The groups said Montfort offered to arrange a meeting to explore earlier raised concerns about the lack of transparency in the asset recovery deal, saying it was ready for an open meeting driven by overall public interest.

The groups have raised 25 fundamental questions seeking answers from both the OPL 245 asset recovery lawyers and Malami, who as senior law officer and Minister of Justice, should be abreast of the funding arrangements and their implications for Nigeria.

The groups said Nigerians are anxious to know how many OPL 245 related contracts have been signed between Johnson and Johnson and Drumcliffe, on what dates, when and how Malami was informed of the existence of such contracts.

The group stated, “Nigerians want to know if any complaint has ever been made to any official body or official of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in respect of terms of the contracts, has Johnson and Johnson or any legal firm employed by Johnson and Johnson explained the terms of the contracts to any official of the Federal Government and whether any assessment has been made by Johnson and Johnson or any legal firm employed by Johnson and Johnson of potential conflicts of interest that might arise from the contracts?”

It said contracts signed with all relevant authorities relating to the asset recovery should not be shrouded in mystery.

The coalition asked Malami to clarify what fees and expenses arising from Nigeria’s asset recovery does Drumcliffe fund and what it does not fund, who is Drumcliffe’s counterparty in the funding agreements, adding whether it was the Federal Government or Johnson and Johnson.

It said, it is important to know what assurances Malami can give that Drumcliffe has the capital in reserve to support the Federal Government’s asset recovery efforts long-term, who is paying the FG’s £850,000 legal costs from the recent case it lost against Shell, Eni and others in London and when did the FG’s legal team in the recent Shell and Eni case first inform the government that Drumcliffe would not be liable for the £2m adverse costs in the Shell, Eni and others case in London.

It asked further, “Has the Federal Republic of Nigeria been informed of the names of the investors in Drumcliffe and what contingent liabilities have been built up by the FRN for OPL 245 asset recovery cases undertaken through Johnson and Johnson? Who sanctioned these liabilities?”

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