Abacha loot: Switzerland agrees to repatriate $321m to Nigeria—AGF
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, on Thursday, disclosed that Switzerland has agreed to return $321million that was looted from the national treasury by late military head of state, General Sani Abacha.
Malami equally revealed that Nigeria had recently recovered the sum of $85million from the United Kingdom.
He said the fund was part of proceeds from the controversial Malabu oil deal scam.
Media aide to the AGF, Mr. Salihu Isah said Malami made the disclosures in his opening remarks at the Pre-Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) Consultative meeting with the theme: Building an Ending Framework for Asset Recovery in Nigeria, held in Abuja.
According to him, Malami stated that with the conclusion of negotiation, the Memorandum of Understanding would be signed by parties at the Global Forum on Assets Recovery meeting coming up on December 4 in Washington, adding that the repatriation would follow within weeks as agreed by the parties.
The AGF alsoaffirmed need for the international community to ensure the implementation of the measures considered and adopted at the London Anti-Corruption Summit in May, 2016.
He said: “The AGF also emphasised that Nigeria is more than willing to support the transparent return of stolen assets. He equally urged the international community to improve on procedure for faster return of assets to enable Nigeria meet the sustainable development goals.
“It is widely acknowledged that corruption undermines economic development, political stability, rule of law, social development, disrupts social order and destroys public trust in the governance system. It is an established fact that corruption which is linked to organised crime, terrorism and insecurity is one of the reasons for underdevelopment”.
According to Salihu, Salami reiterated that resources and funds meant for development of infrastructure in education, health and security sectors, among others had been stolen and laundered in different parts of the world.
“The Minister further reaffirmed that President Mohammadu Buhari in May, 2015 made a commitment to tackle corruption and equally focussed on the return of stolen assets from various jurisdictions and that Nigeria had set a clear targets towards improving transparency in the management of assets through Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Bank Verification Number (BVN). He stated also that Nigeria had saved trillion of naira through these processes.
“Subsequently, under the United Nations Convention Against Corruption implementation mechanism, Nigeria was Peer Reviewed in May, 2017 by Myanmar and Cote D’Ivoire in the first year of the second cycle which covers areas of Preventive Measures And Asset Recovery.
“Nigeria has also implemented the United Nations Convention Against Corruption requirement through the development of National Strategy on Anti-Corruption and currently reviewing the anti-corruption laws, also the government has signed the Open Government Partnership initiative and completed the National Action Plan for its practical implementation in Nigeria, he said.
“He added that, he was pleased that the Civil Society Organisations were involved in the negotiation of the Memoranda of Understanding and would also be involved in monitoring the use of the funds”.
Meantime, earlier in his welcome address, the Director, African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Rev. David Ugolor, noted that Global Forum on Asset Recovery established as an outcome of the London 2016 Anti- Corruption Summit hosted by former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, would build upon the experiences of the Arab Forum on Asset Recovery (AFAR) and the Ukraine Forum on Asset Recovery (UFAR).
He said: “The core objective of GFAR is to convene practitioner experts to provide an effective opportunity for countries to cooperate on asset recovery cases.
“It also tries to highlight the importance of strong political commitment, multijurisdictional coordination and practitioner interaction. “Its inaugural meeting will focus on assistance to four priority countries; Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Ukraine”.
He urged the international community to work the talk by fulfilling some of the commitments made during the London summit, which had direct implication for anti-corruption in Nigeria.
“We are eager to see how these commitments would translate to an expeditious return to Nigeria, assets belonging to Nigeria stashed away in the UK, US and other countries.”, the ANEEJ boss added.
Ugolor identified the need for Nigeria to evolve a new national asset recovery design to stem the illicit financial transactions still going on in our national dealings and seek a way to possibly overhaul the existing anti-corruption agencies to grapple with the antics of fraudsters.
He said, “Without any shade of doubt, it is obvious that we need new national asset recovery architecture to deal with the multiple challenges facing our country today.
“The anti-corruption agencies will need to explore more creative strategies to respond to the new large scale indices of corruption in both the public and private sectors.” We need to strengthen our legal and institutional anti-corruption systems through the introduction of innovative legislative agenda.
“The Proceeds of Crime Bill and other anti-money laundering reform bill deserve urgent attention, particularly with the increasing reports of the looting of public resources.”
In their respective remarks, the British Ambassador to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, Swiss Ambassador, Eric Mayoraz and Michael H. Bonner, Senior Police Advisor who represented the US Ambassador in their remarks, commended the Nigerian government for collaborating with Civil Society Organizations to fight corruption and in tackling illicit financial flows.
They pledged the support and cooperation of their home countries in repatriating stolen funds stashed away in banks at their countries back to Nigeria in due course.
Likewise, Dr. Kole Shettima, Director MacArthur Foundation in his remarks, also praised the government for getting interest groups on board for the asset recovery drive, but wished that other parties like the Nigerian movie industry known as Nollywood as well as the media among others are involved to be all encompassing.
Shettima expressed that he do not want a situation where Anti-Corruption war would be seen as President Buhari or government fight, but to be seen as the fight for all Nigerians.