From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Federal Government yesterday disclosed that the government of Switzerland would soon return the sum of $321 million stolen from Nigeria and stashed away in foreign countries by the late former Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha and his family.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), who made the disclosure explained that the funds would be returned to Nigeria in tranches under a project known as “the National Social Investment Programme” aimed at strengthening social security for the poor in Nigeria.
A statement by the AGF’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Salihu Isah, stated that a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding signed by Nigeria along with Switzerland and the World Bank in the United States of America on Monday activated the move.
The statement revealed that the Attorney General of the Federation signed the MoU alongside representatives of Switzerland and World Bank at the ongoing Global Forum on Asset Recovery in the US.
Isah further disclosed that the Director of the Directorate of International Law and Head of the Swiss delegation to the GFAR, Roberto Balzaretti, signed the MoU on behalf of the government of Switzerland while the Country Director of the World Bank office in Abuja, Mr. Rachid Benmessaoud signed on behalf the World Bank.
He explained that the MoU spelt out the modalities of returning money by Switzerland to Nigeria.
“The chosen solution for restitution is being undertaken by the three contracting parties as a partnership in line with the objectives of Switzerland’s strategy to freeze, confiscate and return the illicitly acquired assets of politically exposed persons (asset recovery) which is based on the principles of transparency and accountability.
“It also allows the involvement of civil society in the monitoring of the restitution process. Furthermore, the return of these funds makes a concrete contribution to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and can set a good example internationally for future restitution cases.”
He explained that the sum was initially frozen in Luxembourg and confiscated by Switzerland as part of criminal proceedings brought by the public prosecutor’s office of Geneva against Abba Abacha in December 2014.
“The signing of this MoU gives Nigeria visibility and will set precedence on the need for transparent management of returned assets internationally.
“The GFAR brought together experts from the field of asset recovery to strengthen international cooperation in this area.
“Nigeria will also use the opportunity of the GFAR meeting at the headquarters of the International Finance Corporation in Washington DC to negotiate the return of other assets and also engage in bilateral meetings with several other countries,” the statement quoted the AGF.
According to Isah, the Nigeria’s delegation to the meeting which was led by Malami has the Special Assistant to the President on Justice Reform and Coordinator, Open Government Partnership, Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu, Nigeria/GFAR Focal Person and Assistant Director, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mrs. Ladidi Abdulkadir, a representative of the civil society organisations, Reverend David Ugolor, who is also the Executive Director, African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, as members.