Fresh indications have emereged that Nigeria may soon receive another tranche of $319million loot of former Head of State, late General Sani Abacha from France and the United Kingdom.
According to the US authorities involved in negotiations for its release, about $167million of the loot is in France with the UK still in custody of $152million which is also a subject of litigation.
In a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, the US said: “The funds returned last week are distinct and separate from an additional $167million in stolen assets also forfeited in the United Kingdom and France, as well as $152million still in active litigation in the United Kingdom.
The repatriation of the $152million (now $155m due to interest) to Nigeria is being challenged by the UK and the US because of alleged plans by the Nigerian government to give $110million out of the money to Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, a known associate of the late Abacha, according to Bloomberg report.
Nigeria is seeking the approval of a UK court to take ownership of the assets before returning 70 percent of the proceeds to Bagudu under the terms of a 2018 deal, Bloomberg said.
The UK government’s National Crime Agency is also “opposing the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s application,” according to a motion filed by Bagudu’s brother, Ibrahim, to the District Court for the District of Columbia in the US capital on March 30.
The US Department of Justice said in February that its Nigerian counterpart is hindering its efforts to recover the allegedly laundered money from the UK.
The latest refund is coming barely few days after the government received about $311,797,866.11 recovered assets of General Sani Abacha from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
Attorney-General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who confirmed this early in the week said in a statement by the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr Umar Gwandu said the amount increased significantly from over $308 million mentioned in an earlier statement in February to over $311million due to interest that accrued from February 3 to April 28, when the fund was transferred to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Malami said the litigation process for the return of the assets titled ‘Abacha III’ commenced in 2014 while the diplomatic process that culminated in the signing of the Asset Return Agreement began in 2018.
Eventually an agreement was signed on February 3 by the governments of Nigeria, the United States, and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
“This Agreement is based on international law and cooperation measures, that sets out the procedures for the repatriation, transfer, disposition, and management of the assets,” he said.
According to the statement, the recovery effort consolidates on the record of the Muhammadu Buhari administration with the history of recovery of $322million from Switzerland in 2018.
It added that the recovered loots were transparently and judiciously deployed in supporting indigent Nigerians as specified in the agreement signed with Switzerland and the World Bank.
He 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 (NSIA) within the next fourteen days.
“The NSIA is responsible for the management and execution of the projects to which the funds will be applied.”
Meanwhile the Federal Government has said the latest $311million recovery would support and assist in expediting the construction of three major infrastructure projects across Nigeria – Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Abuja – Kano Road, and the Second Niger Bridge.
It said it was was 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.