….As FG fine-tunes processes to utilise $321 million loot
By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
With the successful repatriation to Nigeria of over $1 billion stashed away by late Nigerian head of state in Switzerland, there is no more Abacha loot left in that country.
The Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, Eric Mayoraz, made the declaration at a ceremony hosted by the embassy to examine asset recovery efforts between Nigeria and Switzerland using the ‘Abacha loot’ as a focus.
The envoy disclosed that Switzerland had earlier returned $752 million, which the late dictator and family hid away in Swiss banks to Nigeria and recently repatriated another $321 million, which is being domiciled in Nigeria’s Central Bank.
Ambassador Mayoraz announced that with new legislations already put in place in his country, it would be impossible to steal Nigeria’s money and stash it away in any part of Switzerland.
“As a way out of what led to Abacha loot, we have signed a Mutual Legal Assistance treaty with Nigeria and it is meant to enable us to track and expose those who want to bring in illicit wealth and prosecute them in accordance with the laws in place,” Mayoraz said.
“It is to be made clear that the new laws in Switzerland do not allow for any stolen wealth to be kept in any place in the country,” the ambassador added.
The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, admitted the receipt of the last tranche of $321 million of the Abacha loot from the Swiss Government, adding that it had been domiciled with the Nigerian apex bank for the purpose of using it to empower the poor and vulnerable in Nigeria.
The minister, who was represented by the Special Assistant to the President on Justice Reforms, Mrs. Juliet Ibebaku-Nwagwu, explained that Nigeria and the World Bank agreed to use the Abacha loot to fund the National Cash Transfer Scheme so that it could benefit the entire country since the money belongs to the whole country.
The minister explained that necessary processes as stipulated by the World Bank and other organisations as conditions for drawing down the Abacha loot from Switzerland are being strictly implemented to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of the cash.
He said that although the process of drawing down the money from the Swiss Government was not smooth, President Buhari insisted all the same that all the processes stipulated must be adhered to and a central agency put in place to recover the money and put mechanism in place for managing the funds.
The Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment, Mrs. Maryam Uwais, who was represented by Linda Ekeator, Manager Legal, National Social Investments Office, said that the cash transfer scheme had been set up in no fewer than 19 states of the federation and that more states would soon join the scheme.
According to her, over 270,000 households had been captured under the scheme while the transfer of the $321 Abacha loot to beneficiaries of the programme would start in July.
A member of Civil Society groups, working with the Swiss and Nigerian governments to monitor the return and use of the Abacha loot, and Executive Director of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, Rev. David Ugolor, said that civil society groups would ensure that the looted funds are properly accounted for, promptly returned to Nigeria and effectively managed and utilised for the overall best interest of Nigerians who are the victims of corruption.