Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Washington DC
President Muhammadu Buhari and President Donald Trump of the United States of America have agreed for the two Attorneys-General of both countries to sit down and draw a roadmap on how $500 million looted funds that has been traced will be returned.
Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, who briefed alongside the ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah and Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, at the end of the business meeting President Buhari had with CEOs of Nigeria and US businesses, on Monday evening, said the roadmap would be drawn Tuesday afternoon.
The AGF noted that three key remarks from President Trump consolidated on the general overview of what transpired between the two presidents.
According to him, President Trump’s acknowledgement of the Nigerian leader as a real leader, his acknowledgment that the administration has indeed succeeded in cutting down corruption and the payment of N135 million compensation to victims of the Apo six killed in 2013, was an indication that the meeting was a fruitful one.
Malami said also said President Trump’s commitment towards assets recovery and reparation of looted funds was also demonstrated during the meeting.
In the words of Malami, “There was a clear political goodwill and commitment that has now been given by the respective governments in terms of working together towards the repatriation of the looted funds and assets.
“To that extent, there has been clear directives for both attorney generals to meet and have a road map for the repatriation of the assets. That meeting is now slated for tomorrow (Tuesday) 3pm to work on the repatriation of over $500 million which is ready for repatriation subject to clearing the bureaucratic bottlenecks.”
On whether the $500 million is the first tranche or there is possibility of more trailing, the AGF said, “One thing I can tell you is that investigation is ongoing and the numbers keeps changing with time. But as far as the immediate negotiations with US is concern it is a figure between $500 million and above. That is what is on the table immediately for discussions.”
Malami was Bieber silent on the timeline the money will be repatriated.
He said, “I can’t state categorically what we are looking at in timeline sense but the truth is we are looking at the the shortest practicable time. The fact that there is political commitment by the two presidents, is a clear demonstration of the fact that the possibility of having the money repatriated within the shortest possible time cannot be ruled out.”
He said, another subject Buhari’s administration got commendations was in the area of Human rights record in the country.
The AGF said, “President Buhari has stated that this is the first time that Nigeria is paying compensation for victims of human rights violation.
“Recall the Apo six incident which happened in 2013 where security agents were said to have committed human rights violations by the unjustified killings of six people.
“In April this year, the Federal Government has indeed paid N135 million to the victims of the human rights violation. That has further been consolidated by the fact that two of the police officers that were involved in the perpetration of the murder of the Apo six were sentenced to death through judiciary process.
“The payment was recommended by Human Right Commission. So it is a clear demonstration of the respect for the human right commission and its decision, two respect for human rights against the background that for the first time the federal government is paying compensation and that also those that perpetrated the unwholesome act were indeed sentenced by a judicial process.”
On number of beneficiaries of Apo six compensation, Malami said, “The beneficiaries are eight and not six. The Apo six was press coinage arising from the immediate casualties as at the time of the incident but then number increased to eight.”
Onyeama on possible Trump visit, said with Nigeria’s upcoming elections and the busy schedules of both Presidents, it will take at least a year for such visit to be planned.
President Trump had indicated interest in visiting Nigeria, describing it as an amazing country, adding that there is no country more beautiful.
Onyeama said, “Regarding the invitation, well if the programmes of the two presidents are very very intensive, it usually takes anything up to a year to prepare for invitation at that kind of level before they are actually take place. Of course in Nigeria, you know we have elections coming up and a very very busy schedule as that of President Trump. Maybe sometime next year we could envisage something like that.”
Enelamah, on the quantum of investment expected, said, “First, on Friday, the government signed investment agreement with General Electric (GE), on the railway concessions. The agreement is going to be in two phases. The first phase is to get the job rolling that will involve over $40 million investment that will get some of the existing rail tracks working, with the right coaches and carriages to get some of the Cargo and passengers going. And then there is the big one which is the $2 billion investment to revamp our existing rail and making sure its use for cargo and transport. That is the narrow gauge and the existing rails we have in addition to all the new ones we have. So that is just one investment from one company.
“Some of the companies Mr. President met with were John Deere, that is looking to assemble and supply tractors in Nigeria. At its full expression it is expected to exceed 10,000 tractors. Initially it’s going to be in hundreds but there is no question that it fits this model of trying to invest in Nigeria, train people, employ people and help the agriculture value chain in terms of its mechanization, automation and all the good things that comes from a company like John Deere.
“Other companies like Cotava, that are basically into agric business l, which is being turned into a multi-million dollar business, another company called Continental Grains, Bongi, there is Flour Mills, who are all looking to make serious investments in Nigeria. Our own companies were there as well including the Dangote Group.
“Everyone of these companies are committed to making serious investment in Nigeria that runs into hundreds of millions of dollars and in aggregate will become billions of dollars just like the GE one.”
The Industry, Trade and Investment minister said, Buhari also met with Boeing, Procter & Gamble, Chevron and so on and so forth.
He said, “For instance, Boeing is very interested in supporting the aviation sector, the plan to roll out something that will increase the availability of flights from Nigeria. Procter & Gamble is looking to expand its investment in Nigeria. Chevron as you know is the oil company, it also commended Nigeria on how they have succeeded in sorting out the historical problem with cash calls and so on.
“So in terms of investment and commitment there is every reason to be positive, it is certainly in the billions of dollars, we need to sharpen our pencils and take it on.”
On exactly what President Trump meant by Agric produce coming to Nigeria, Enelamah said, “What is to take away is that there is a lot of scope for collaboration between Nigeria and the US. Our view is that the major scope is that the fact you have these Agric businesses whether they are in equipments like John Deer or are in crops and seeds and enhancement like Coteva and Bongi or Continental grains, that can help improve production in Nigeria.
“So most of them will certainly function there. Clearly when it comes to trade between the two countries, there will always be scope for trade. But right now when you include oil it will means Nigeria exporting more to the US but when you remove oil, the US is actually exporting more to Nigeria. I think the important thing is that the balance of trade should grow on both sides and it should be win-win. And that is exactly what will happen based on what we will see today.”