The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), confirmed the receipt of $311,797,866.11 million of the Abacha assets repatriated from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
Malami made the confirmation in a statement by Dr. Umar Gwandu, his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, on Monday in Abuja.
According to Malami: “The amount increased from over $308 million mentioned in the press release issued in February to $311,797,866.11 million following the accrued interest from February 3 to April 28 when the fund was transferred to the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
He noted that the litigation process for the return of the assets, titled: “Abacha III,” commenced in 2014, while the diplomatic process that culminated into the signing of the Asset Return Agreement on February 3 by the Nigerian Government, US and Bailiwick of Jersey, commenced in 2018.
He said: “This Agreement is based on international law and cooperation measures that set out the procedures for the repatriation, transfer, disposition and management of the assets.”
He said the recovery effort consolidated on the established record of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, which has a history of recovery, including that of $322 million from Switzerland in 2018.
He said: “These recoveries are transparently and judiciously deployed in supporting indigent Nigerians as specified in the agreement signed with the Switzerland and the World Bank.”
The Minister, who led the negotiation team, noted that the Tripartite Agreement and the process towards the implementation represents a major watershed in International Asset Recovery and Repatriation as it seeks to provide benefit to the victims of corruption.
Malami said: “In line with the 2020 Asset Return Agreement, the fund has been transferred to a Central Bank of Nigeria Asset Recovery designated account and would be paid to the National Sovereign Investment Authority within the next 14 days.
“The NSIA is responsible for the management and execution of the projects to which the funds will be applied.”
Malami said the government of Nigeria has committed that the assets will support and assist in expediting the construction of three major infrastructure projects across Nigeria.
“The projects are the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano Road and the Second Niger Bridge.”
He said the Federal Government is in the process of establishing a Project Monitoring Team to oversee the implementation of the projects and report regularly on progress made to the public.
Malami said: “To ensure transparent management of the returned assets, the government will also engage a Civil Society Organisation, who has combined expertise in substantial infrastructure projects, civil engineering, anti-corruption compliance, anti-human trafficking compliance, and procurement to provide additional monitoring and oversight functions.
“The process for the engagement of the CSO monitor has already commenced with the adverts placed in two Nigeria newspapers – Daily Trust and the Punch of March 4 and a Notice of Extension on April 17, the Federal Tender Journal March 9 and 23, the Economist March 14.
“The advert can also be found on the website of the Federal Ministry of Justice – www.justice.gov.ng.”
It would be recalled that the recovered funds were laundered through the US banking system and then held in bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey.
In 2014, a US Federal Court in Washington D.C. ordered forfeiture of the money as property involved in the illicit laundering of the proceeds of corruption arising in Nigeria during the period from 1993 to 1998 when late General Sani Abacha was Head of State.
In 2017, the Federal Government filed a case in the Bailiwick of Jersey to assert its authority as the owner of these funds and as the victim of the action of Abacha.
Malami urged for greater cooperation and mutual respect amongst countries in the implementation of expeditious cooperation measures already set out in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and in the implementation of the Global Forum on Asset Recovery principles on the repatriation of stolen assets.
He further assured Nigerians that the Federal Government would ensure that the returned assets are transparently managed.
He said: “Information regarding the implementation of this project can be obtained by sending an email to: [email protected]”