Buhari bars Malami’s appointed agents from $43bn debt recovery

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President Buhari
President Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari has terminated the debt recovery contract awarded to Trobell International Limited by Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation, because of the “incredible” commission to be paid.

Trobell was engaged by Malami to recover the estimated $43 billion unpaid arrears to Nigeria from the production sharing contracts (PSCs) with multinational companies — and the commission was set at five percent.

Effectively, Trobell would be pocketing $2.15 billion — or N774 billion — as commission.

By comparison, the budget of Lagos, the most economically viable state in the country, for 2019 is N874 billion.

But in a letter to Malami dated October 16, 2019, Abba Kyari, the chief of staff to the president, said Buhari has directed that the minister should immediately “comply with Mr. President’s directives of March 4, 2019, and terminate the Recovery Contract which the Ministry of Justice had signed with Trobell International Limited regarding the purported recovery of $43.747b from the PSCs pursuant to the consent judgment of the Supreme Court of April 5, 2018.”

According to presidency sources, Buhari was alarmed at the “staggering commission” to Trobell for simply writing letters of demand to the oil companies after the supreme court-ordered settlement of the dispute.

Buhari was said to have questioned how Malami arrived at the five percent commission for a recovery that the federal government can do by itself without engaging any company.

This development echoes the dubious commission payments to Nigerian lawyers for the return of $321 million Abacha Loot from Switzerland — even though a Swiss attorney, Enrico Monfrini, did all the recovery over a period of seven years.

Malami was only expected to formally send a request to the Swiss government for the final return of the money to the country. He, instead, engaged another set of lawyers to write the letter and paid them what TheCable now understands to be $17 million (as against the reported $15 million).

Cable Foundation, partners to TheCable, had sent a freedom of information (FoI) request to Malami over the Switzerland case which he refused to respond to and the court case filed by the foundation was thrown out by the judge.

A similar request sent by TheCable to Malami in 2018 requesting full information on the engagement of Trobell for the recovery of the $43 billion PSC backlog from the oil companies went unanswered.

However, TheCable understands that Buhari is unhappy that despite his earlier instruction that the contract be terminated, Malami did not comply.

Nigeria had awarded PSCs to the multinational oil companies in 1993 for exploration in deep offshore and inland basis.

The federation was supposed to automatically get more share of the oil revenue after a number of years but the terms were not reviewed.

Nigeria’s unpaid share of the revenue was estimated at $62 billion from 2008 to 2018 in a suit filed by the 36 states of the federation.

The supreme court entered into a consent judgment in April 2018 as a final resolution of the dispute.

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