Politics

How Nigeria’s Government Plans to utilize $308 Million ‘Abacha loot’

A $308 million fund looted by late former Head of State, General Sani Abacha would be repatriated to the Nigerian government.

This follows an Asset Recovery Agreement in which the Government of Jersey, the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Government of the United States of America have entered into. A U.S. Federal Court in 2014 seized US$480 million on the claims of an illicit money laundering act in Nigeria from 1993 to 1998, a period when General Abacha was Head of State. Held in bank accounts in Jersey in the name of Doraville Properties Corporation, a BVI company, and in the name of the son of the former Head of State of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha, the embezzled funds were transferred through the US banking structures.

The late military leader aside embezzling funds to the US is also indicted of diverting public funds to UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Luxembourg.

The funds to be repatriated to Nigeria is different from the $320m returned to the country by Switzerland authorities in July 2018. A Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme agreed with Swiss authorities needed the country to direct the recovered funds back to the people. As such the reason these funds were channelled towards a Social Investment Programme (SIP) by the Federal government, in an arrangement which saw the fund shared to ‘poor’ Nigerians. That formed a part of the government’s mega plan of taking ’10 million people out of poverty’.

The failure of such was apparent, no government in the world has taken its citizenry out of poverty by merely doling out sums of money. The conditionality of the agreement generated remonstrations by various commentators on how Switzerland, a foreign entity, could dictate what a sovereign country wants to do with it’s money. Although undisclosed amounts were given to the masses, the effectiveness of it failed. The probability of the haven funds been re-looted is a possibility, making useless the purpose to which the funds were released.

On the $308m repatriation

The failure of the last conditional cash transfer in its purpose should be a stepping stone for the government when it eventually receives the US refund.

The tripartite agreement which was negotiated since 2018 spelt out procedures for the repatriation, transfer, disposition and management of the assets. The agreement seeks the federal government commitment towards building assets in three strategic economic locations across the country. If not adhered to, the African nation would risk having to refund the sum to the US unconditionally.

It is likely that the assets mandated to be set up will be the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Abuja – Kano Expressway and the Second Niger bridge. This was relayed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, who represented the Nigerian government during the agreement.

The road networks are all under reconstruction. While the reconstruction of the Lagos – Ibadan expressway was initially domiciled at N167bn, those of the Abuja — Kano expressway and the Second Niger bridge is N155bn and N210bn simultaneously. All reconstruction works on the highways are behind the targeted timeline.

When converted into the Naira, the recovered loot equals about N112bn and the government has promised to set up an audit team to ensure the funds are utilized appropriately.

General Abacha and his family have allegedly stolen between $1 billion and $5 billion from the country.

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