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OPL 245: Anti-graft group set to meet Malami, others over asset recovery

A COALITION of Nigerian and international civil society groups committed to promoting transparency, accountability and fight against corruption says it is meeting with Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Johnson and Johnson, the Nigerian legal firm that has the fiat for all OPL 245 recovery claims and Drumcliffe Partners, a U.S. litigation fund hired to finance various OPL 245 related asset recovery cases, over five per cent of funds recovered.

The meeting, announced in a statement obtained by The ICIR followed concerns raised in an article published on June 14, 2020 by Premium Times 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.

The group comprises of Global Witness, a U.K. based international organisation working on transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector, Cornerhouse, also a U.K. research and advocacy organisation, with a reputable profile in judicial review and activism, Recommon, an Italian NGO with a huge profile in investigating corruption at local and international levels and HEDA Resource Centre which is Nigerian research and advocacy group in accountability, transparency and good governance.

According to the statement, issues raised in the said publication prompted Montfort Communications, a public relations firm acting for the Nigerian government’s legal team in the case to contact Global Witness.

“Montfort offered to arrange a meeting to explore concerns we had raised about the opacity of 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,” the statement read.

While accepting to have the meeting, the coalition said “We have agreed to the meeting, subject to it being “on the record”.

The transparency and accountability group said it has line up 25 questions for the Minister, the legal team and the funder when they meet and has also decided to make the questions public.

“In the interests of transparency and accountability, we are making public the questions to which we are seeking answers from both the OPL 245 asset recovery lawyers and the Attorney General of the Federation, who, as senior law officer and Minister of Justice, should be abreast of the funding arrangements and their implications for Nigeria.”

The group had expressed concerns that Nigeria’s asset recovery strategy, which relies on outsourcing claims to private law firms, was running into the rocks.

It lamented that the news that the High Court in London rejected the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s application to pursue a $1.1 billion-plus claim against Shell and Eni in England, over the OPL 245 deal, raised major concerns that the asset recovery arrangements that the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) has put in place were not working and not fit for purpose.

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Saharareporters in August reported that Johnson & Johnson, a Lagos law firm acting on the instructions of Malami had signed a new deal with Poplar Falls LLC, a United States litigation firm to receive one-third of the recovered fund in the OPL245 case.

It said Poplar Falls LLC, a company based in Delaware, would superintend the recovering of the illicitly acquired funds from Malabu Oil and Gas Limited on behalf of Nigeria.

The deal will allow the company receive 35 Per cent of the recovered funds from the $1.1bn of the illicitly acquired funds, according to SaharaReporters.

In 2016, J&J signed a contract with Drumcliffe Partners, a U.S. litigation fund, to finance various OPL 245 related asset recovery cases, for five percent of funds recovered.

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