Federation Attorney General and Justice Minister Abubakar Malami (SAN) responded to the recent allegation by a whistleblower, John Okupurhe, that the AGF office refused to pay his fee after exposing more than $ 1 billion ( N420 billion) hidden in a bank.
The minister said the federal government only pays whistleblowers after a successful recovery of the looted funds and not simply by tracking or exposing suspected illegitimate funds.
He was responding to a letter written by a lawyer to the whistleblower, Aliyu Lemu, allegedly written on June 22 on issues related to the payment of the whistleblower's fees.
In a statement by his special assistant in media and public relations, Dr. Umar Gwandu, AGF Malami said: “The Office of the Federation's Attorney General and Minister of Justice wants to make it categorically clear that it is not paid for exposure to looted assets, but with successful recovery and submission to the designated asset recovery account at the Central Bank of Nigeria & # 39; & # 39 ;.
Gwandu said: “The Office of the Federation's Attorney General and Minister of Justice wants to make it clear that payment is not received for exposing looted goods, but for their successful recovery and presentation in the recovery of designated assets. account with the Central Bank of Nigeria ",
While carrying out the procedure for hiring a whistleblower or recovery agent with regard to the AGF Office, he added:
“A proposal is submitted to the Office of the Federation's Attorney General, an Engagement Letter is issued to a whistleblower or recovery agent where the disclosure is assessed as having some prospects for success.
“The recovery agent or whistleblower must notify the acceptance of the work in writing.
“The recovery agent or whistleblower must, upon acceptance, not only track the assets, but recover them and deposit it in a designated asset recovery account maintained by the federal government at the Central Bank, which is usually provided to the recovery agent in writing. "
According to AGF, where these funds end up being claimed by a whistleblower or recovery agent, the Central Bank issues an acknowledgment of receipt of the fund to the Attorney General's Office on demand.
“It is the satisfaction of the above elements that authorizes the whistleblower or a recovery agent to claim the success rate and payment is usually made by the Federal Ministry of Finance and not by the Federation's Attorney General's Office. .
"The role of the Attorney General's Office, in essence, is simply to process the documents listed above for the Ministry of Finance, which is the ministry charged with the responsibility of making the payment."
Malami further explained that the recovery is not about exposing the existence of certain assets in an account that allegedly belonged to a government agency.
“It is about establishing that the funds in the account are assets looted or stored illegally, and then with recovery and actual allocation of funds in the asset recovery account designated by judicial and extrajudicial means.
“The right to recovery rates is, for all purposes, dependent on the presentation of the declared / exposed assets that constitute the object of recovery in the Account designated by the Federal Government's Recovery.
The whistleblower claimed that the account was being operated secretly by the Nigeria Port Authority (NPA) to illegally collect revenue from ships.
He said that after the discovery, he informed the AGF Office of the secret account, according to the whistleblowing policy, and that an agreement was signed.
The agreement stated that Okpurhe would be entitled to a commission if the information provided was credible.
The whistleblower said that after playing its role, the AGF office started playing.
Meanwhile, a coalition of civil society organizations in the south of the south has threatened to sue the federal government for refusing to pay commission to acclaimed whistleblowers. Civil society organizations under the auspices of the Southern Anti-Corruption Observatory of the South (SACW) have pledged to ensure that Okupurhe justice and those behind the hidden money are exposed. SACW's national coordinator, Prince Kokori Edjegba, said it was shocking for President Mohammadu Buhari's advisers who scoff at his government's anti-corruption struggle. Prince Edjegba noted that if Okupurhe's accounts were true, the government of Nigeria should have played its part by paying him for the exposure of hidden funds.
Edjegba said that ridiculing Okupurhe's good work would prevent others from presenting authentic information about stolen money or exposure to corruption in the public service.
He said it was wrong for the AGF office to allow the problem to reach the public because it could expose Okupurhe to unnecessary danger.
Part of the letter written by Okupurhe's lawyer, dated June 22, 2020, says: “In accordance with the Federal Government's whistleblowing policy, our client approached the AGF Office with confidential information regarding hidden public funds hidden in a commercial bank in Lagos, contrary to the single treasury account policy, which requires that all public funds or revenues be domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria.
"Our client submitted qualified information to the AGF Office in a cloned account with the Nigeria Port Authority, which was being used to illegally collect revenue from vessels by signatories who are no longer in the service of the NPA."