The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has acquired the services of an image-laundering and lobbying firm with offices in the United Kingdom and the United States to undertake ‘outreach and relationship building with various stakeholders.’
The hiring comes about a month after Atiku Abubakar last April hired the services of lobbying firm Fein & DelValle PLLC, founded by a former Justice Department employee, Bruce Fein, to help push narratives that support his challenge of the result of the presidential election among top US politicians.
According to details of Mr Abubakar’s contract obtained from the website of the United States’ Department of Justice Foreign Agents’ Registration Act (FARA) website, Fein and DelValle will on behalf of Mr Abubakar:
“Meet and consult with members of Congress and staff in an effort to pass House and Senate resolution(s) to forebear from a final declaration and recognition of a winner of the 2019 Federal Republic of Nigeria presidential election pending legal challenges to the initial assertion that incumbent President Buhari was the victor are impartially and independently resolved by the Nigerian judiciary in accordance with the rule of law and due process, free from military or political influence.”
The documents also revealed that Mr Abubakar agreed to pay the lobbying firm $30,000 (about N10.8 million) to cover costs and expenses for the services.
In what could be a response to Mr Abubakar’s move, the Buhari administration through the office of the Solicitor-General of the Federation, Ministry of Justice, agreed to pay another lobbying firm, Pagefield Global, with offices in London and Washington, about N10 million monthly.
Documents obtained by PREMIUM TIMES from the FARA website show that Pagefield Global was hired on May 2 to give “public affairs and public relations advice and monitoring, undertaking outreach and relationship building with various stakeholders and the media in connection with legal disputes that the Solicitor General is conducting on behalf of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
According to the documents, Pagefield Global will deal directly with Dayo Apata, Nigeria’s Solicitor General.
Perhaps in a bid prevent the deal from public scrutiny, the Nigerian government opted for a non-written contract with Pagefield Global where it agreed to pay the lobbying firm a monthly fee of about N10 million.
“There is no written contract between the parties. Our understanding is that we will be paid £21,600 per month by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on a one month notice period,” Pagefield wrote in its registration statement submitted to the Department of Justice.
When reached for comment, Mr Apata denied knowledge of the contract.
“Please disregard that. It couldn’t be from the Ministry of Justice,” he said.
But when told that his name was mentioned in the document as the contact person in the Ministry of Justice, he said he needed to look at the documents and “confirm with his boss and then get back to you.”
Garba Shehu, a spokesperson to Mr Buhari, did not answer or return calls made to his mobile phone. He also has not responded to a request sent to him via SMS for comment.
This is not the first time the Ministry of Justice will be acquiring the services of a U.S. lobbying firm. In May 2018, the justice minister, Abubakar Malami, hired two American lobbying firms to plant opinion articles favourable to the Buhari administration in American newspapers.
The value of the verbal contract, which was done through a Nigerian public relations firm, Channel Koos, was not disclosed. However, Channel Koos was paid $8,000 for helping to hire the two U.S. lobbying firms.