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Abacha loot: FG won’t pay $100m to Bagudu – Malami

Valentine Chinyem

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Nigeria is not deviating in any way from the agreement it reached with the United States of America on the $308million recovered from the family of the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, Federal Attorney-General and Justice Minister Abubakar Malami (SAN) said on Saturday.

He said there was no plan to concede either $100million or €98.5million to Governor Abubakar Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, who was implicated in the stashing of funds abroad for the Abachas.

Malami was reacting reports that Nigeria appeared to be on a collision course with the US after agreeing to hand over about $100m of the recovered Abacha loot to Bagudu.

The governor himself dismissed the US position as a ploy to frustrate Nigeria’s recovery of the Abacha loot while the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) called for a probe of the alleged plan to hand over $100 million of the money to the Kebbi State governor.

Malami, in a statement in Abuja by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Jubrilu Gwandu, said no third party’s interest was captured in all the agreements between the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and any foreign nation on the recovery of looted funds.

He also explained that all negotiations and agreements relating to the repatriation of looted funds were tabled before the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and decisions taken accordingly.

He said Bagudu and his family are in courts in the United Kingdom and the United States on a different agreement with the US Government.

He however said the Federal Government is negotiating the recovery of assets from several countries.

He said the government was working with the United States on the recovery of several other assets including corruption proceeds linked to former Petroleum Minister Deziani Alison-Madueke and her associates, and a former Delta State Governor, James Ibori as well as several others.

He said: “It is well known that the USA and the Bagudu family have been in court since 2014 over assets already rescinded under the 2003 Agreement. The matters are to be determined in the United Kingdom and the United States courts.

“The Bagudu family assets in contention, which constitute a distinct and separate cause of action, do not have anything to do with the assets already recovered and being recovered under the Abacha 2014 non-prosecution agreement.

“It is therefore mischievous and pedestrian for anyone to seek to turn the law and the facts on its head on the matter of repatriation whose terms are clearly spelt out and agreed among the parties.

“The government of Nigeria remains fully committed to continued cooperation with the United States of America and other countries in a reciprocal manner.

“We urge the media and the general public to wait for the outcome of the court decisions and ongoing settlement efforts in this matter.”

The AGF said no third party interest had ever featured in Nigeria’s negotiation with other jurisdictions on the recovery of assets.

He also explained that all negotiations and agreements on recovery of assets were always tabled before the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for approval.

“The FGN is also negotiating the recovery of assets from several countries and the agreements for the recoveries and the procedure for recoveries are always presented to Federal Executive Council for approval and duly made public once the processes have been concluded.

“No third-party interest was captured in the Council memo that was approved by the Council,” he added.

Malami said the government was working with the United States on the recovery of several other assets traced to a former Petroleum Minister Deziani Alison-Madueke and her associates, and a former Delta State Governor, James Ibori as well as several others.

He said: “Nigeria is also cooperating with the United States in the recovery of several other assets including corruption proceeds linked to former Petroleum Minister Deziani Alison-Madueke and her associates, and former State Governor James Ibori as well as several others.

“The government of President Buhari remained committed to the recovery of whatever funds are owed Nigeria and the government in that regards has gone to court in different countries to assert its rights as victim of corruption in order to have those assets returned to Nigeria.

“In the same manner that Nigeria is asserting its rights to the assets, there are others, including individuals, entities and countries who have rights and who have gone to court to contest the legality or otherwise of Nigeria’s claims against their assets.

On the $308million recently recovered, the AGF said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari will stick to the agreement reached with the United States and the Island of Jersey.

He said the cash, which will be managed by Nigeria’s Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), will also be monitored by civil society organizations.

He said: “The Federal Government of Nigeria is strongly committed, in principle and practice, to fighting the menace of corruption. A core component of Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts includes the transparent management and utilization of returned assets as well as independent asset recovery efforts in a manner consistent with its domestic law, national interest and its obligations under international law.

“President Buhari remains the first President of Nigeria to make this commitment and has never and does not plan to deviate from these commitments contrary to statements in the media.

“To achieve the President’s objectives, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) has engaged and continues to engage with international partners, including the United States of America, in the recovery and return to Nigeria of stolen assets.

“Nigeria and the United States of America are continually cooperating in the recovery and return of those assets.

“This long-standing cooperation recently culminated in the successful signing of memorandum of understanding for the repatriation of over $300 million looted assets associated with General Sani Abacha.

“It is pertinent to recall at this juncture that prior to the 2020 agreement with the United States and Island of Jersey; the Federal Government has signed an agreement for the return of over $300 million in 2017 which was effectively deployed for the purpose for which it was agreed to be applied without any issue of reputation.”

“The 2017 repatriated funds were deployed to the implementation of the Social Investment programme and are being monitored by civil society organizations across the country.

“The 2020 Agreement which will be managed by Nigeria’s Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) will also be monitored by civil society organizations and will be used to support the completion of critical road infrastructure namely the Abuja-Kano Road, the Second Niger Bridge and the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway. These projects will support socioeconomic development across the country.”