General Sani Abacha was a Nigerian military Head of State in the 1990s.
The Attorney-General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, confirmed this on Monday 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 over $308 million mentioned in an earlier statement in February to over $311million 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.
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, the United States, and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
“This Agreement is based on international law and cooperation measures, that sets out the procedures for the repatriation, transfer, disposition, and management of the assets,” he said.
According to the statement, the recovery effort consolidates on the record of the Muhammadu Buhari administration which has a history of recovery of $322m from Switzerland in 2018.
It 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.
He said, “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 fourteen days.
“The NSIA is responsible for the management and execution of the projects to which the funds will be applied.”
The minister insisted that the latest recovery would support and assist in expediting the construction of three major infrastructure projects across Nigeria – Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Abuja – Kano Road, and the Second Niger Bridge.
He revealed that the government was in the process of establishing a Project Monitoring Team to oversee the implementation of the projects and report regularly on progress made to the public.
In order to ensure transparent management of the returned assets, Malami said the government would engage a Civil Society Organisation 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 U.S. banking system and then held in bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey.
He revealed that a U.S. 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 when 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 General Abacha.
He, therefore, called for greater cooperation and mutual respect among countries in the implementation of expeditious cooperation measures already set out in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, and in the implementation of the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) principles on the repatriation of stolen assets.
The minister assured Nigerians that the government would ensure that the returned assets were transparently managed.
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