By Abdulwahab Abdulah
The Embassy of the United States of America in Nigeria has promised that it will forward Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, letter requesting official attachment and release of $500 million proceeds of alleged corruption traced to former late Head of State, General Sani Abacha.
SERAP had in the letter copied to the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson requested the administration to initiate a forfeiture action in order to attach the said funds for subsequent release to Nigeria.
In a response, the embassy said that, “The Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are in regular communication with the Nigerian Attorney General and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding further cooperation needed to conclude pending asset forfeiture cases and to develop a mechanism for the timely and transparent repatriation of those assets.”
According to SERAP, the letter signed by David J. Young, Deputy Chief of Mission followed SERAP’s letter dated 3 February 2017 and signed by the organization’s US Volunteer Counsel Professor Alexander W. Sierck and Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni.
SERAP had in the letter told Mr Trump that; “The US Department of Justice must promptly initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings against the $500 million proceeds of corruption so as to fulfil several non-controversial commitments by the US to assist Nigeria in recovering assets looted by former Nigerian government officials.”
In response, the US embassy noted, “As part of the 2010 Kleptomaniac Asset Recovery Initiative, the US Department of Justice has sought to forfeit the proceeds of corruption by foreign officials [including from Nigeria], and where appropriate, to use recovered assets to benefit the people who were harmed. This policy is consistent with US treaty obligations, including the UN Convention against Corruption.”
The embassy noted the US Government supports the Government of Nigeria’s efforts to work with civil society to identify how harm can be remedied through the return of stolen assets.
It would be recalled that SERAP had in its letter said, “the $500 million proceeds are separate from the $480 million of Abacha-origin funds that have been forfeited to the US under an August 2014 US federal district court order. SERAP’s request is fully consistent with the UN Convention Against Corruption, which both the US and Nigeria have ratified.”