•Interim forfeiture: N126 billion; $9 billion; £2 billion
By Emmanuel Aziken & Levinus Nwabughiogu
The Federal Government said, yesterday, it had made cash recoveries totaling N78,325,354,631.82; $185,119,584.61; £3,508,355.46 and €11, 250, from looters of public treasury, from May 29, 2015 to May 25, 2016.
The disclosure was in fulfillment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise to make public the details of the cash recoveries on his first anniversary in office. The President had said, in his broadcast to the nation on the first anniversary, that the details would be provided by the Federal Ministry of Information. Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a statement, also disclosed that Recoveries Under Interim Forfeiture (cash and assets) during the period totaled N126,563,481,095.43; $9,090,243,920.15; £2,484,447.55.
According to the statement, said to have been based on the interim report on the financial and assets recoveries made by the various government agencies from May 29, 2015 to May 25, 2016, the Funds Awaiting Return From Foreign Jurisdictions totaled 321,316,726.1 Dollars; 6,900,000 Pounds Sterling and 11,826.11 Euros (Eleven thousand, eight hundred and twenty six Euros, 11 cents).
It showed that Non-Cash Recoveries (Farmlands, Plots of Land, Uncompleted Buildings, Completed Buildings, Vehicles and Maritime Vessels) during the period total 239.
Meanwhile, Sunday Vanguard has been made to understand that the reason why names of looters were not disclosed was because of the need to avoid the potential of truncating the cooperation that was already being enjoyed in the drive to recover looted funds – in the first instance – from some of those from whom funds are being recovered, just as the government did not want to jeopardize the willingness of others to return funds in their possession.
The following, the statement said, is the breakdown of the recovered cash and assets:
In a related development, the Presidency, last night, defended its decision not to release the names of those who returned the funds. It cited the fact that while some of those who returned money were not in any way guilty of any offence, publishing the names could deter those contemplating returning ill-gotten funds in their custody.
A top Presidency source, who spoke to Sunday Vanguard , anonymously, said the administration was happy to have recovered as much as $9 billion without going to court as he said that a number of people still willing to return could be dissuaded by the publication of the names.
“This thing is ongoing and one of the reasons why we did not release the names was that without going to court we were able to retrieve all that amount of money. If you release names, other people who want to do voluntary returns will not do so. What we need is the money and not the names”, he stated.
“Secondly, many of those who returned the money are not necessarily guilty. For instance, if my party gave me money to go and campaign in an election, how am I to know that that money was from an illicit source?
“For instance if money is given to a newspaper for publication, you cannot criminalise the newspaper because it did not know where the money came from. If the newspaper returns the money would it be fair to publicise the name of the newspaper.
“If you listen to the mob you will just end up in the ditch. The practical thing is that we want more money to come in. And we don’t even know what are the terms of the agreement by which anybody returned money.
“So, for those who are saying that we ought to release the names, they got it completely wrong; it would be counterproductive. In fact, some people could go to court suing us for defamation and libel and then the whole essence would be lost and all people would be talking would be about the court cases. That is not what Nigeria needs now. What Nigeria needs now is to be focused and “we believe we have taken the right step in letting Nigerians know how much has been recovered, $9 billion without going to court”.