Nigeria and the United States of America (USA) on Tuesday signed an agreement for the repatriation of $23,439,724 recovered funds said to have been looted by the late General Sani Abacha.
At the agreement signing ceremony held at the Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ), the Attorney- General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami signed for Nigeria while the US Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard signed for her country.
Malami said the fund, which is referred to as “the Mecosta/Sani Mohammed assets (otherwise known as Abacha Five) would be deployed to the ongoing construction of the Lagos-Ibadan express way, Abuja-Kano road and the second Niger bridge.
He said Nigeria was hopeful that other pending cases such as “Bayelsa, Galactica, Blue Trust and Seaborne assets” would be resolved in Nigeria’s favour.
“You may all recall that since 2016, the FMOJ, the UK National Crime Agency (NCA) and the US Ministry of Justice (USDOJ) have been working closely with the legal representatives of the FRN to finalize litigations related to Abacha linked assets.
“Further to the agreement between the parties, the UK High Court granted the NCA a Registration and Recovery Order, dated 28 July 2021 and sealed by the court on 4th August 2021.
“The forfeited Mecosta/Sani assets were subsequently transferred to the NCA which, on 7th of February 2022 held the sum of $23,439,724 pending the execution of the asset return agreement agreed between the FRN and the USA.
“Following the court order, the FRN and the USA have negotiated and finalized the terms of the asset return agreement.
“It is worthy to note that, in line with the terms of this agreement, Mr. President has already approved the funds to be utilized for the on-going Presidential Development Infrastructural Funds (PIDF) projects, namely Abuja-Kano Road, Lagos-lbadan Express Way and the Second Niger Bridge under the supervision of Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA).
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“The President’s mandate to my office is to ensure that all international recoveries are transparently invested and monitored by civil society organization to complete these three projects within the agreed timeline.
” As such, I would like to use this opportunity to urge the Government of the United States not to relent in supporting Nigeria’s commitment to the speedy, transparent management of returned assets.
“As partners in the global effort to promote an effective implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and against the background of constrained economic resources, I urge you to support us in meeting these critical prionties of the FRN by working with us to finish the projects already agreed under the 2020 tripartite agreement among Nigeria, USA, and the Bailiwick of Jersey for the benefit of Nigeria and its citizens,” Malami said.
The US Ambassador, who said country elected to ensure the repatriation of Nigeria’s looted assets as part of its support for the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
She assured of her country’s commitment to ensuring that Nigeria’s assets were utilised for the benefit of Nigerians.
Leonard assured that her country would continue to support efforts to return all funds looted from Nigeria.
She urged the Nigerian authority to ensure that the recovered funds are applied for the purpose to the three projects agreed upon by parties.