The President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government, has on Monday, received $311,797,866.11 recovered assets of former Military Head of State, late General Sani Abacha, repatriated from the United States, US, and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
The Attorney-General of Federation, AGF, and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, confirmed this in a statement by the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations at his Office, Dr. Umar Gwandu.
According to Malami, the amount increased significantly from the over $308 million mentioned in an earlier statement in February, to over $311 million, as a result of the interest that accrued from February 3 to April 28, when the fund was transferred to the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
He noted that the litigation process for the return of the assets titled: ‘Abacha III’, commenced in 2014, while the diplomatic process that culminated in the signing of the Asset Return Agreement, commenced in 2018.
The agreement was signed on February 3, by the governments of Nigeria, United States of America, and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
He said: “This Agreement is based on international law and cooperation measures, that set out the procedures for the repatriation, transfer, disposition, and management of the assets.”
According to the statement, the recovery effort consolidates on the record of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, which has a history of the recovery of an earlier $322 million, from Switzerland, in 2018.
The statement added that the recovered loots were transparently and judiciously, deployed in supporting indigent Nigerians, as specified in the agreement signed with Switzerland and the World Bank.
Malami, who led the negotiation team, noted that the tripartite agreement and the process towards the implementation, represented a major watershed in International Asset Recovery and Repatriation, as it sought to provide benefit to the victims of corruption.
His words: “In line with the 2020 Asset Return Agreement, the fund has been transferred to a Central Bank of Nigeria Asset Recovery designated account, and would be paid to the National Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), within the next 14 days.
“The NSIA is responsible for the management and execution of the projects to which the funds will be applied.”
The Minister speaking further, insisted that the latest recovery would support and assist in expediting the construction of 3 major infrastructure projects across Nigeria, which are the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Abuja – Kano Road, and the Second Niger Bridge.
He revealed that the government is in the process of establishing a Project Monitoring Team, to oversee the implementation of the projects, and report regularly on the progress made, to the public.
In order to ensure transparent management of the returned assets, Malami stated that the government would engage a Civil Society Organisation, CSO, who has combined expertise in substantial infrastructure projects, civil engineering, anti-corruption compliance, anti-human trafficking compliance, and procurement to provide additional monitoring and oversight.
He noted that the process for the engagement of the CSO monitor has already commenced, with the adverts placed in two local newspapers.
The recovered funds, according to the Minister, were laundered through the US banking system, and then held in bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey.
He revealed that a US Federal Court, in Washington D.C., forfeited the money in 2014, as property involved in the illicit laundering of the proceeds of corruption arising in Nigeria, during the period General Abacha was Head of State, from 1993 to 1998.
Malami added that in 2017, the Nigerian government filed a case in the Bailiwick of Jersey, to assert its authority as the owner of the funds, and as the victim of the action of late General Abacha.
The Minister assured Nigerians that the government would ensure that the returned assets are transparently managed.