In what may stall further repatriation of the late General Sani Abacha’s loot from the United States of America has broken out between Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami and a United States-based lawyer, Godson Nnaka.
Nnaka, who said he has been on trail of the stolen money for years now, demanded from Malami an apology of what he claimed a defamatory statement made against his person by the Minister.
He threatened to sue Malami if he failed to apologise within 48 hours for his comment on the controversy surrounding the return of N218 billion ($550 million) recovered Abacha loot.
Nnaka, who was recruited in 2004 by the Nigerian government to recover funds stolen by late dictator Sani Abacha, had instituted a case in a U.S. district court seeking 40 percent of the recovered loot.
According to Nnaka, he was abruptly disengaged from the fund recovery case after he had spent money and time to find and recover the funds.
He also alleged that Malami demanded bribe as much as 70 percent of his fee, to access documentations needed for him to act on behalf of the country.
He said his refusal made the Minister to drop him from the case.
But Malami said he decided to end the partnership after Nnaka threatened to embarrass President Muhammadu Buhari during one of his trips to the U.S., if he was not given the necessary documentations.
“So when I was appointed into office he approached me for such instruction. But then what annoyed me most was that he now used threat. He threatened me that if I do not give him the letter of instruction, when Mr President’s flight arrives in New York, he would embarrass the Federal Government. I then became annoyed because I do not naturally stand to threat. Nobody can intimidate me like a baby for procuring a letter of instruction. And on that basis I said he should do his worst. That was the genesis of the problem,” he said.
Nnaka noted this statement by the Minister was fabricated, and demanded that Minister should retract it in its entity as he has never met Malami personally nor had any conversation with him on the phone.
This is the statement of Nnaka’s U.S.-based counsel, Bennett Amadi:
“I wish to state categorically that Dr. Nnaka did not make any of the alleged statements. As a matter of fact, Dr. Nnaka has never held any meeting/discussion, personal, telephone or otherwise with Mr. Malami on any subject at all or on the subject of the Abacha Loots, whether in Nigeria or anywhere in the world.
“It is therefore very pathetic to think of how low Mr. Malami could descend to peddle deliberate lies and conscious misrepresentations against Dr. Nnaka.
“While it is common knowledge that anyone fighting corruption, like Mr. Nnaka, is often threatened, abused and vilified, I consider the alleged statements Mr. Malami has attributed to Dr. Nnaka as mere reckless fabrications designed by Mr. Malami to further injure and damage Dr. Nnaka.
“Accordingly, I hereby demand of Mr. Malami to retract those statements and senseless allegations, and immediately issue a public apology to Dr. Nnaka, within the next forty-eight (48) hours, in the PREMIUM TIMES newspaper and in five other Nigerian National newspapers and two online Magazines, in the absence of which, I will initiate a libel and defamation suit on behalf of Dr. Nnaka and seek justice against Mr. Abubakar Malami, personally, in the Court of appropriate jurisdiction.”
However, the Minister on Thursday disowned the U.S-based Nigerian lawyer.
He said Nnaka who is laying claim to 40 percent of the $550 million (N218.3 billion) of the Abacha loot, which the United States Government is about to return to Nigeria, was trying to reap where he did not sow. Malami, in a 44-page document, said Nnaka cannot lay claim to 40% of the recovered loot.
Malami said the Nigerian Government would not pay Nnaka the huge amount he is asking for since he is not qualified to practise law in the Maryland area where the case is taking place and did not recover any money for the country 14 years after the former Attorney General of the Federation, Olujimi, gave him a provisional letter to help locate and recover the Abacha loot.
He said since the temporary letter given to Nnaka by Olujimi was not revalidated by Mohammed Adoke when the forfeiture case resumed in 2013, the lawyer could therefore not claim to be representing Nigeria.
The litany of cases filed by Nnaka and the appeal by the USDOJ in conjunction with Nigeria, are said to be delaying the repatriation of the huge cash to Nigeria.