By EDEM DARLINGTON, Calabar
Nigeria will receive the sum of $321m stolen by the family of late Head of State, General Sani Abacha following the signing of a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MOU) by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, with Switzerland and the World Bank.
Reports filed in from United States of America by Comrade Salihu Othman Isah, Special Adviser to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice on Media and Publicity indicates that the signing on December 4th, 2017 is in consonance with Switzerland’s policy of returning illegally acquired assets.
The report also revealed that the modalities for the return of the stolen funds are set out in the MOU that was signed by the three parties at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) currently ongoing in the United States.
According to him, the AGF, Abubakar Malami, SAN, signed on behalf of Nigeria while Ambassador Roberto Balzaretti, the Director of the Directorate of International Law who doubles as Head of the Swiss delegation to the GFAR signed on behalf of the government of Switzerland while the Country Director of the World Bank office in Abuja, Mr. Rachid Benmessaoud signed on behalf the World Bank
The AGF spokesman further stated that, “The MOU stipulates that the restitution of funds will take place within the framework of a project known as the National Social Investment Program that will strengthen social security for the poor in Nigeria’’.
“The MOU also regulates the disbursement of restituted funds in tranches and sets out concrete measures to be taken in the event of misuse or corruption”.
“The chosen solution for restitution is being undertaken by the three contracting parties as a partnership” in line with the objectives of Switzerland’s strategy to freeze, confiscate and return the illicitly acquired assets of politically exposed persons (asset recovery) which is based on the principles of transparency and accountability.
It also allows the involvement of civil society in the monitoring of the restitution process. Furthermore, the return of these funds makes a concrete contribution to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and can set a good example internationally for future restitution cases.
These assets, which were initially frozen in Luxembourg, were repatriated and confiscated by Switzerland as part of criminal proceedings brought by the public prosecutor’s office of Geneva against Abba Abacha in December, 2014.
The signing of this MOU gives Nigeria visibility and will set precedence on the need for transparent management of returned assets internationally.
The GFAR brought together experts from the field of asset recovery to strengthen international cooperation in this area.
Nigeria will also use the opportunity of the GFAR meeting at the headquarters of the International Finance Corporation in Washington DC to negotiate the return of other assets and also engage in bilateral meetings with several other countries.
The Nigerian delegation to this meeting comprise the Head of delegation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Barrister (Mrs.) Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu, Special Assistant to the President on Justice Reform and Coordinator, Open Government Partnership (OGP) and Mrs. Ladidi Abdulkadir, Nigeria/GFAR Focal Person and Assistant Director, Federal Ministry of Justice among others as well as civil society organizations represented by Reverend David Ugolor, Executive Director, African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ).
The delegation is expected to return back to the country on December 7th, 2017.