The Federal Ministry of Justice owes private lawyers engaged to prosecute a retired judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, and two former co-defendants, to the tune of N164m, the private legal practitioners have alleged.
Sunday obtained their letter dated October 21, 2019, sent to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), demanding to be paid their legal fee.
A copy of the letter bearing the AGF office’s acknowledgment stamp dated October 25, 2019, stated that the unpaid N164m was the fee for the lawyers’ handling of the appeals challenging the judgment of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja which had in April 2017 exonerated Justice Ademola and his co-defendants.
The leader of the prosecution team, Mr Segun Jegede, who led two others on the team – Anthony Agboniahor and Emmanuel Ubua – stated that he had been demanding payment for the prosecution of the appeals for 24 months to no avail.
Jegede, who is reputed for his profile as a prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, explained in his letter sent to Malami that his team was initially not engaged in the prosecution of the appeals until November 2017 after lawyers from the ministry had filed three separate notices of appeals against the April 2017 judgment.
Jegede stated, “Unfortunately, from that time up till now – a period of 24 months – despite persistent demand, we have not received any logistical or financial support from the Ministry of Justice or the presidential committee.
“On the contrary, we have been constrained to pay hotel bills and incur expenses for transportation, copying of documents and filing/service of court processes.”
He urged Malami to use his “good offices to ensure that our fees, detailed below are paid to us without further delay.”
According to the breakdown provided by Jegede, the ministry owes him N64m while it owes the two other team members N50m each.
Malami’s reaction could not be obtained on Sunday as his new spokesperson was not accessible to reporters covering the ministry.
But top officials of the Ministry of Justice that were conversant with the case faulted Jegede’s letter.
“The team did not do any job to warrant being paid such a huge amount,” one of the ministry’s officials, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said.
The AGF had charged Justice Ademola, his wife, Olubowale, and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joe Agi, with bribery-related offences before the FCT High Court in Abuja.