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FG, US Sign Fresh Agreement To Repatriate $23m Abacha’s Loot

BENJAMIN OMOIKE

The Federal Government of Nigeria and the United States of America on Tuesday, signed an agreement that would facilitate the repatriation of the sum of $23million seized from former Head of State, late General Sani Abacha back to the country.

US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard and Abubakar Malami (SAN), the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), and Minister of Justice, signed the agreement in Abuja at the AGF’s office.

The sum would bring the total amount of funds repatriated in the Abacha case to Nigeria by the US to more than $334.7 million.

Malami said during the ceremony that decision to return the stolen funds, which is tagged ‘Abacha-5’, was as a result of a “series of negotiations and meetings between Nigeria, the US department of justice and the UK National Crime Agency.”

The AGF assured the US that the looted fund, when repatriated, will be used for the completion of the Abuja-Kano Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Second Niger Bridge, same projects that gulped the earlier repatriated loots.

“It is worthy to note that in line with the terms of this agreement, Mr. President had already approved the funds to be utilised for the ongoing presidential development infrastructural funds, PIDF, projects namely: Abuja-Kano Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the second Niger Bridge, under the supervision of Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA),” Malami said.

“The president’s mandate to my office is to ensure that all international recoveries are transparently invested and monitored by civil society organisations to compete for these three projects within the agreed timeline.”

US ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, said in her speech that: “The US department of justice and the FBI seized these funds in response to General Abacha and his associates’ violation of US laws when they laundered these assets to the US and into accounts in the UK.”

These actions were a flagrant breach of the Nigerian people’s trust. But today is the result of an extensive and high level cooperation between the US, UK and the Federal Republic of Nigeria to make the Nigerian people whole.

“This agreement is also a kind of collaboration that our government must continue in order to right the wrongs commited under the previous regimes.

“Combined with a $311.7m seized and repatriated with the assistance of the Bailiwick of Jersey and the government of Nigeria in 2020, this repatriation brings the total amount of funds repatriated in this case by the US to more than $334.7 million.”

The US Ambassador noted that the funds will be used to complete infrastructural projects earlier mentioned by the AGF.

“In other words, these recovered criminal proceeds, like the $311.7m previously seized and repatriated, will be transformed into a visible and impactful representation of the possibilities of government assets that directly improve the lives of average Nigerians,” she said.

“The US government is keenly aware of the devastating impact corruption has on societies. Corruption erodes trust and the ability of governments to deliver to their citizens.

“It distorts the economies and access to key services. It hinders development, pushes citizens towards extremism and makes countries and their officials susceptible to malicious foreign interference.

“It is in recognition of the role corruption plays in undermining democracy that the US considers the fight against corruption as a core national security interest. To that end, President Biden really supported the US strategy in countering corruption last December.”

The Ambassador said the US law enforcement will continue to deny safe havens for corrupt actors and their assets.

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