The Nigerian government has confirmed the receipt of more than $311 million of public funds stolen by the country’s late military ruler, General Sani Abacha. This follows an agreement by the United States and the British dependency of Jersey in February, to return the stashed monies.
The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice for the West African nation, Abubakar Malami, in a statement by his special assistant on Media and Public Relations, Umar Gwandu, disclosed that $311,797,866.11 of Abacha’s loot was repatriated from the US and Jersey.
According to local news media, Premium Times, “The amount increased significantly from over $308 million as stated in a press release in February to over $311 million because of the interest that accrued from February 3, 2020, to 28th April, 2020, when the fund was transferred to the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
The Justice Minister further disclosed that the litigation process for the return of the asset titled, “Abacha III” started in 2014, while the diplomatic process that culminated in the signing of the Asset Return Agreement on February 3, 2020, by the governments of Nigeria, the US and Jersey commenced in 2018.
“This recovery is based on International law and cooperation measures that set out the procedures for the repatriation, transfer, deposition and management of the assets,” he said.
Per the agreement, the AGF said the Nigerian government will use the asset to support and assist in expanding local infrastructure, including the construction of three major infrastructure projects across Nigeria, namely: The Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Abuja – Kano Road, and the Second Niger Bridge.
Meanwhile, the United States has cautioned the Nigerian government against misusing the funds. According to the U.S Justice Department, the money must be used for the various public projects stated in the agreement.
In ensuring equity, the Justice Department disclosed a “claw-black” provision in the event of malpractice.
“Should any of the parties-including the United States- conclude that any of the returned funds had been used for an ineligible expenditure, a ‘claw-back’ provision would then obligate the FRN (Nigeria) to replace fully any such improperly diverted monies,” the letter said.
According to Transparency International, Abacha, before his death in 1998, stole as much as $5bn of public funds. He ruled Nigeria between 1993-1998.