THROUGH a collaboration lauded as one of the world’s largest asset recovery across borders, the government of Nigeria on Tuesday, February 4 signed a repatriation pact with the government of Jersey and the United States to return over $308million looted and stashed abroad by former Head of State, late Sani Abacha.
The pact came through after almost two decades of litigation involving the three parties— Jersey government, Nigeria and the US government.
Since his demise in 1998, Nigeria has continued to look for cash stashed abroad by the former military ruler through his family members and cohorts. His reign from 1993 to 1998, was characterised by what Nigerians described as ‘massive looting’ of the treasury. The cash was majorly in the United Kingdom, France, the United States, and New Jersey.
According to SERAP, public money looted by Abacha during his five years in power is estimated to be $5billion. Since September 1999 some $2.2billion has been returned to Nigeria from at least six countries.
Before Tuesday’s feat in which Nigeria expects to receive $308million Abacha loot, another 22.5 million pounds was returned to Nigeria in 2013 from the United Kingdom.
Who got what and for what
However, cheery as the news of the current repatriation sounds, Nigeria is not getting the whole sum.
For their efforts to help Nigeria repatriate the looted money, the government of Jersey “will retain $5 million in respect of its costs and expense in the recovery of assets, while the US will retain up to $5 million in respect of its costs and expenses,” the joint statement signed by the parties on Tuesday revealed.
Also, an additional $18 million of assets was paid into the Royal Court of Jersey pending resolution of a claim by a third party. But there are hopes that this particular money ‘may potentially be made available for payment to the US and Nigeria under agreement in the future’.
Meanwhile, the exact sum to be repatriated to Nigeria is ‘expected to be well over US$300 million net of Jersey’s and the US’s costs and expenses depending on interest accruing.’
What Nigeria Govt plans to do with the money
Before the release of the fund $308million was completely underway, the Nigerian government said it would expend the repatriated money on the development of infrastructure. It, however, did not specify how much of the money would go into the projects that would be funded.
The government revealed that the recovered loot would fund projects in the Southwest, Southeast and the Northern regions of the country.
Specifically, it would be spent to fund the construction of 127.6-kilometre Lagos–Ibadan expressway.
Also, part of the money would go into the completion of the Second Niger Bridge project in the East, The project, according to the government has attained almost 40 per cent completion.
The scope of work includes the construction of 1.6 kilometer-long bridge, 10.3 kilometre Highway, Owerri interchange and a toll station. The project is expected to be completed by 2022.
The Federal Government in November 2019, awarded the construction of the Second Niger Bridge to Julius Berger at the cost of N206 billion.
While in the North, the busiest interstate highway in the country and the major route to the Northern, Southern and Eastern parts of Nigeria, the Abuja- Kano road would also benefit from the recovered money.
As part of the agreement struck between Nigeria and signed by Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Nigeria and other partner countries will be charged the implementation of the projects, however, reports from the progress will be independently audited.
“The Federal Republic of Nigeria will establish a Monitoring Team to oversee the implementation of the projects and to report regularly on progress,” revealed the document.
However, there have been mixed reactions over the recovered money as many Nigerians believe the money must be judiciously spent.
Based on separate statements by the US, New Jersey, and other law enforcement agencies and international monetary forensic agencies, not only Nigerian citizens would want to see the recovered funds “lost to corruption in flagrant disregard of the rule of law returned through a lawful process, and in a manner that ensures transparent and accountable use of the funds,” said Brian Benczkowski Deputy Assistant Attorney, United States.