Nigeria Recovers $85m Malabu Loot From UK

Muhammadu Buhari Image Via DTN

ABUJA, NIGERIA (PREMIUM TIMES) -- The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami Thursday announced that the Federal Government had just recovered $85million Malabu fund from the United Kingdom (UK).

His words: “I am also pleased to inform that Nigeria has just recovered the sum of $85million on the Malabu funds from UK.”

He spoke at the Agenda for Pre-Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) Consultative Meeting organized by the Mac Arthur Foundation and the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) in Abuja.

Malami also added that the Federal Government of Nigeria was concluding negotiation with that of Switzerland on the return of $331million recovered from the family of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha.

According to him, the Civil Society Organizations will be involved in the monitoring of the utilization of the funds.

He stressed that with the conclusion of the negotiation, the different countries involved are to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the repatriation of the funds in the next few weeks.

The minister said that “we are indeed concluding negotiation with Switzerland on the return of $331million recovered from the late Abacha family. I am pleased to inform that Civil Society Organizations were involved in the negotiation of the Memorandum of Understanding.

“Most importantly, the Civil Society Organizations will be involved in monitoring the use of funds. With the conclusion of negotiation, parties are to sign a Memorandum of Understanding at the global forum at Asset Recovery meeting and repatriation all follow within weeks as agreed by the parties. ”

He recalled that Nigeria has implemented the United Nations Convention Against Corruption requirement through the development of National Strategy on Anti-Corruption.

The National Strategy on Ant-Corruption, according to Malami, was adopted by Nigeria and has been approved by the Federal Executive Council in July this year, which the President is expected to launch in due course.

He revealed that the Nigeria is currently reviewing its anti-corruption laws, noting that the Federal Government has signed government partnership initiative and completed the National Anti-Corruption national action plan with practical implementation in the country.

Malami noted that President Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to launch the National Action Plan very soon.

He said that “it is pertinent to state at this point that the repatriation of our stolen wealth need very tedious several bilateral agreements entered into between Nigeria and other jurisdictions.”

Even when the provision of the United Nations Convention against corruption obliged same, the minister said that, parties to facilitate the return of stolen assets between Nigeria and parties are facing several challenges.

He said that his office has held talks with office of interests during the global forum on asset recovery.

He said the countries include the United Kingdom, United State of America, Canada, Switzerland, South Africa, Panama, United Arab Emirates, Northern Ireland, Gambia and others.

The Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, Eric Mayoroz said Switzerland and the government of Buhari are committed to fight against corruption.

He noted that his country changed its legislation in the last decade so that stolen money could not be deposited there.

The envoy said that his country’s law on money laundering is now the global model in the fight against the crime.

According to him Switzerland was the first country to return stolen funds to Nigeria from the western world after it recovered $22million from the late Abacha’s family.

He said that then, the Swiss Justice discovered that there were still other assets owned by the family in the country and it froze hundreds of million dollars deposited by the family in the banks.

The envoy added that after an agreement was signed by the Swiss government and that government of Nigeria in 2014, the Swiss Attorney General in Geneva decided that the money about $320million should be given back to Nigeria.

It urged negotiation with the government of Nigeria and the modalities emerged in 2016 when Malami and the Swiss AGF signed the letter of intent ,that the money should be protected from another attempt of being looted again.

He added that in June 2016, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo chose the projects to use the money on to include those that would benefit the poorest in the society and that it would be monitored by the World Bank.

He said “a few weeks ago, at the moment of negotiation, leading to the final point and the writing of the Memorandum of Understanding, we are very grateful to the Nigerian authorities for its commitment to a transparent and accountable decision that is aimed to reduce absolute poverty and providing cash transfers to support the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerian population.

He said that the Swiss government had insisted that measures must be taken to ensure that the money will not disappear again, noting that the role of the civil society is vital in the matter.

Mayoroz said that “We openly expect to sign another agreement between the Nigerian Civil Societies and the World Bank even before the end of this year.”

Speaking, the British High Commission/Ambassador to Nigeria Mr. Paul Arkwright, said that the United Kingdom is keen to see the quick passage of Nigeria’s bill on asset recovery and it is also ready to support its implementation.

He said that Civil Society Organizations will have vital roles to play in the monitoring and oversight of assets.

According to him, asset recovery is an important priority in the UK in its bilateral relationship with Nigeria.

The transparent management and use of money and the returned assets matter more to the United Kingdom than Nigeria.

He said that his government is insisting that the retrieved funds must be out to good use by the government of Nigeria for Nigerians.

The United State Ambassador to Nigeria, who was represented by Senior Police Advisor, Mr. Michael Baner noted that the US was not a safe haven for stolen funds.

The chairman of ICPC Prof. Bolaji Owasanoye said that Nigeria needs to agree on some framework for asset returning saying that foreign countries a zealous to return stolen assets yet very conservative about returning the money.

He said one should not criticize the position of the western world on asset return because previously returned ones were mismanaged or re-looted.

According to him, Nigeria is now trying to put that accusation behind it by developing a roadmap for future asset recovery.

He called for a framework and structure for the management of returned assets.

He said that pending the passage of the bill in the National Assembly, there is now a framework which the government is using to diminish accusation against law enforcement agencies who recover asset in a transparent manner.