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US House of Representatives members object plan to return Abacha loot

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Two congressmen of the United States House of Representatives, Steve Chabot and Chris Smith, have shown concern over the alleged violation of human rights under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, following the plans to return $320m stolen by the late military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.

American Principles Project, A political organisation based in the United States, in a formal letter to the US Attorney General, William Barr, dated April 22, 2020, indicated that the two House of Representatives had communicated their fears to Barr.

Terry Schilling, Executive Director of APP, who signed the letter said, “Concern with Nigeria’s behaviour under the Buhari Administration is growing.

“Recently, US Senator (Chuck) Grassley has written to the DOJ noting that, under President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, Nigerians face violations undermining freedom of religion, freedom of speech, due process, and the rule of law.

“The persecution of Christians is especially alarming, as attacks have increased rapidly.’ Similar concerns were also shared with you by Representatives Steve Chabot and Chris Smith.”

The APP objected to the plan by the US Department of Justice to return the Abacha loot worth $320m to Nigeria. It said the funds should not be returned until human rights, religious liberties, and due process had significantly been enhanced.

It added, “Recently, the United States Government concluded that under the direction of President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration, Nigeria has become a ‘severe violator of religious freedom.’ The evidence to support this conclusion is overwhelming.

“Amnesty International, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, the International Committee on Nigeria, and the International Organisation for Peace Building and Social Justice have documented that since President Buhari came into power in 2015, more than 12,000 Nigerians have been murdered, of which more than half have been singled out because of their Christian faith.”

The group also mentioned that apart from the “deeply troubling” persecution of Christians, the 2019 Human Rights report by the US State Department had alleged systematic human rights and due process violations at the hands of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Attorney General Abubakar Malami, and Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu.

The APP also mentioned that the report found them and their organisations responsible for “human rights issues which consisted of unlawful and arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary detention, all the above by both government and nonstate actors,’ harsh and life-threatening prison conditions….”

It added that the US Government must use all the tools and enforcement mechanisms at its deployed to ensure corrupt perpetrators of crimes against freedom of religion and against humanity were held responsible.

“On behalf of APP, it would be helpful if you could share with us: Whether the Department Of Justice has repatriated these monies to Nigeria, and if not, when does it plan to do so? Whether DOJ intends to address the questions raised by the Members of Congress?”

“Attorney General Barr — APP would also strongly encourage the DOJ to undertake an investigation on whether or not the EFCC’s role in detaining individuals who have spoken against the Buhari administration warrants the consideration of sanctions against EFCC Chairman Magu and Attorney General Malami under the Global Magnitsky Act or the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act,” it said.

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