Olalekan Adetayo, Abuja
The Federal Executive Council, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday approved the payment of N500m to the lawyers who worked for the recovery of N330bn fine imposed on MTN Nigeria Limited.
The Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, said this while briefing State House correspondents on the outcome of the meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The minister said, “The council approved the payment of professional fees to lawyers engaged by the Federal Government relating to the MTN case instituted against the government in pursuance of penalty of over N1tn imposed by the government on MTN.
“MTN, as you will recall, instituted a case seeking to restrain the Federal Government from recovering the over N1tn imposed on it.
“The Federal Government engaged the services of lawyers to put up a defence on its behalf. As a result, the case was eventually settled by the parties amicably and arising from that settlement, the lawyers are entitled to their fees.”
He added, “The Federal Government has now sanctioned the payment of N500m for the N330bn agreed upon for the alleged certain breaches in their (MTN) operations.
“This amount is less than one per cent of the fee instead of the internationally recognised fee, which is pegged at five per cent.”
Malami added that the sensitivity of the case made it imperative at the time for the government to hire lawyers outside the Nigerian Communications Commission and the Ministry of Justice in line with international best practices.
He also said $320m looted fund had been repatriated to the country following an agreement reached with the Swiss government last year.
The AGF added that efforts were being made for the repatriation of additional $500m.
The minister said, “You will recall that in December 2017, the Federal Government participated in the global forum on asset recovery in Washington DC.
“During that forum, Nigeria and Switzerland signed an agreement that paved the way for the repatriation of $322m relating to looted assets and on the account of that, the amount was eventually repatriated to Nigeria.”
He added, “What transpired was only reported back to the council today. The report today was not only about the signing of the agreement, but the report of the eventual repatriation of the amount of money that was signed and agreed to be repatriated during the forum.
“Nigeria has also engaged other countries, including the UK, US and France in further negotiations relating to repatriation, and I am happy to report that we are almost concluding the processes relating to the repatriation of additional $500m.”
Malami stated that the council approved a memorandum that sought to strengthen preventive measures and institutions on the part of implementations of the President’s London commitment on anti-corruption and open government partnership.
In pursuance of that commitment, the AGF said Nigeria had registered as a member of the World Open Government Partnership, which is to give commitment to transparency, accountability and access of the citizen governance.
Malami added, “Arising from that commitment, Mr. President has also sometime back approved the National Action Plan on Open Government Partnership.
“Today, the memo presented seeks for the establishment of units within the MDAs that will now give effect to transparency, accountability and access of the citizens to information relating to governance.
“It is about strengthening and institutionalising transparency and accountability, all geared towards the fight against corruption, which constitutes one of the high points of the commitment of the President and this administration.”
He said the council also approved the processing of the Copy Rights Act, 2018, which seeks, among others, to strengthen the copyright regime by way of protection of the creative industry and ensuring that punitive measures are in place for breaches to copy rights.
The bill, he added, was approved for transmission to the National Assembly for passage into law.
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