Nigeria is not deviating in any way from the agreement it reached with the United States of America on the $308million recovered from the family of the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, Federal Attorney-General and Justice Minister Abubakar Malami (SAN) said on Saturday.
He said there was no plan to concede either $100million or €98.5million to Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, who was implicated in the stashing of funds abroad for the Abachas.
Malami was reacting reports that Nigeria appeared to be on a collision course with the US after agreeing to hand over about $100m of the recovered Abacha loot to Bagudu.
The governor himself dismissed the US position as a ploy to frustrate Nigeria’s recovery of the Abacha loot while the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) called for a probe of the alleged plan to hand over $100 million of the money to the Kebbi State governor.
Malami, in a statement in Abuja by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Jubrilu Gwandu, said no third party’s interest was captured in all the agreements between the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and any foreign nation on the recovery of looted funds.
He also explained that all negotiations and agreements relating to the repatriation of looted funds were tabled before the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and decisions taken accordingly.
He said Bagudu and his family are in courts in the United Kingdom and the United States on a different agreement with the US Government.
He however said the Federal Government is negotiating the recovery of assets from several countries.
He said the government was working with the United States on the recovery of several other assets including corruption proceeds linked to former Petroleum Minister Deziani Alison-Madueke and her associates, and a former Delta State Governor, James Ibori as well as several others.
He said: “It is well known that the USA and the Bagudu family have been in court since 2014 over assets already rescinded under the 2003 Agreement. The matters are to be determined in the United Kingdom and the United States courts.
“The Bagudu family assets in contention, which constitute a distinct and separate cause of action, do not have anything to do with the assets already recovered and being recovered under the Abacha 2014 non-prosecution agreement.
“It is therefore mischievous and pedestrian for anyone to seek to turn the law and the facts on its head on the matter of repatriation whose terms are clearly spelt out and agreed among the parties.
“The government of Nigeria remains fully committed to continued cooperation with the United States of America and other countries in a reciprocal manner.
“We urge the media and the general public to wait for the outcome of the court decisions and ongoing settlement efforts in this matter.”
The AGF said no third party interest had ever featured in Nigeria’s negotiation with other jurisdictions on the recovery of assets.
He also explained that all negotiations and agreements on recovery of assets were always tabled before the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval.
“The FGN is also negotiating the recovery of assets from several countries and the agreements for the recoveries and the procedure for recoveries are always presented to Federal Executive Council for approval and duly made public once the processes have been concluded.
“No third-party interest was captured in the Council memo that was approved by the Council,” he added.
Malami said the government was working with the United States on the recovery of several other assets traced to a former Petroleum Minister Deziani Alison-Madueke and her associates, and a former Delta State Governor, James Ibori as well as several others.
He said: “Nigeria is also cooperating with the United States in the recovery of several other assets including corruption proceeds linked to former Petroleum Minister Deziani Alison-Madueke and her associates, and former State Governor James Ibori as well as several others.
“The government of President Buhari remained committed to the recovery of whatever funds are owed Nigeria and the government in that regards has gone to court in different countries to assert its rights as victim of corruption in order to have those assets returned to Nigeria.
“In the same manner that Nigeria is asserting its rights to the assets, there are others, including individuals, entities and countries who have rights and who have gone to court to contest the legality or otherwise of Nigeria’s claims against their assets.
On the $308million recently recovered, the AGF said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari will stick to the agreement reached with the United States and the Island of Jersey.
He said the cash, which will be managed by Nigeria’s Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), will also be monitored by civil society organizations.
He said: “The Federal Government of Nigeria is strongly committed, in principle and practice, to fighting the menace of corruption. A core component of Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts includes the transparent management and utilization of returned assets as well as independent asset recovery efforts in a manner consistent with its domestic law, national interest and its obligations under international law.
“President Buhari remains the first President of Nigeria to make this commitment and has never and does not plan to deviate from these commitments contrary to statements in the media.
“To achieve the President’s objectives, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) has engaged and continues to engage with international partners, including the United States of America, in the recovery and return to Nigeria of stolen assets.
“Nigeria and the United States of America are continually cooperating in the recovery and return of those assets.
“This long-standing cooperation recently culminated in the successful signing of memorandum of understanding for the repatriation of over $300 million looted assets associated with General Sani Abacha.
“It is pertinent to recall at this juncture that prior to the 2020 agreement with the United States and Island of Jersey; the Federal Government has signed an agreement for the return of over $300 million in 2017 which was effectively deployed for the purpose for which it was agreed to be applied without any issue of reputation.”
“The 2017 repatriated funds were deployed to the implementation of the Social Investment programme and are being monitored by civil society organizations across the country.
“The 2020 Agreement which will be managed by Nigeria’s Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) will also be monitored by civil society organizations and will be used to support the completion of critical road infrastructure namely the Abuja-Kano Road, the Second Niger Bridge and the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway. These projects will support socioeconomic development across the country.”
Bagudu: ‘I did no wrong’
Governor Bagudu was quoted yesterday by Daily Trust Newspaper as saying that he did no wrong on the Abacha loot matter.
According to him, the U.S. was playing a media game with a view to frustrating Nigeria’s recovery of the money.
He said the loot in question was frozen in the UK and not the U.S.
He added that his name was only joined as an associate of the Abacha government and though he signed an agreement with the Obasanjo Administration in 2003, none of his assets was frozen in Nigeria up to 2013, and therefore he did not admit criminal liability
PDP to N/Assembly: ‘Probe alleged diversion of looted funds’
Reacting to the US fears over alleged plan to hand over $100m of the recovered Abacha loot to Bagudu, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) asked the National Assembly to commence a forensic probe of the Buhari Presidency.
Chief spokesman for the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan, said reports that the Buhari Government has been “blocking attempts to recover part of the looted funds traced to Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, the Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) Governors Forum, who was reportedly indicted by the US for allegedly helping in transferring billions of dollar out of the country during the military era, speaks volumes of the corruption and concealments going on in the Buhari Presidency.
“Moreover, further revelations in the report that instead of recovering the stolen money, the Federal Government is even in the process of funneling $100 million (N36.3 billion) out of the looted funds to Governor Bagudu, highlights the humongous sleaze, duplicity and treachery that pervade the Buhari administration.
“From the report, it is clear that the Buhari Presidency has further smeared itself, and no longer commands the trust and confidence of stakeholders within and outside the country in its fight against corruption.
“There are already apprehension in the public space of huge complicity and patronizing of corruption under President Buhari’s watch, which is directly responsible for our worsening corruption rating, a comatose economy, hardship and untold suffering which have turned our nation into world’s poverty capital.
“The PDP holds that the failure of the Buhari Presidency to give a direct response to the issues raised by the US Department of State only validates the widely held position within and outside our country that the administration is not only irredeemably corrupt but also serves as a haven for corrupt individuals”.
The party called on the National Assembly to immediately redeem the image of the nation by invoking its statutory instruments to order a forensic investigation into the handling of repatriated funds given the huge corruption that has pervaded the Presidency.
Southern, Middle Belt leaders seek judicial probe
In a similar statement on Saturday, the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) advocated a judiciary inquiry into the U.S. allegations.
It said: “The feeble denial by the presidency does not cut it for us. We do not accept the Americans Government can be declined as ‘corruption fighting back.’
“Only 48 hours back we learnt that the Excess Crude Account (ECA) which used to be in billions of dollars is now down to $70m.
“The administration has plunged Nigeria to un-payable debt borrowing in 3 years more than what we previously borrowed in 30 years with no deliveries in town. We recall how the former Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun queried the EFCC Chairman of having no record of what EFCC recovered from corrupt politicians.”