•Adeosun admits FG’s receipt of money from Switzerland in December, denies writing President on lawyers’ fee
Godwin Tsa, Abuja
More controversies have continued to trail the Federal Government’s handling of the $322.51 million Abacha loot repatriated to the country by the Swiss government in December 2017.
The new twist to the recovery saga comes on the heels of the Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun’s admission that government actually received $322.51 million from the Swiss Government as part of looted funds by former Head of State, late General Sani Abacha. She however denied writing a strong worded letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, objecting to payment of about N6 billion to lawyers that facilitated the recovery.
According to the spokesman to the Minister, Oluyinka Akintunde, the government received the money since December 18, 2017, but added that there was no controversy surrounding the recovery of stolen funds by the former head of state from the Swiss Government.
“The minister wishes to dissociate herself and the Federal Ministry of Finance from recent reports on the Abacha refunds.
“The minister had at no time written any letter to the President or any member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on the payment to lawyers for the Abacha recovery.
“She also refutes the flawed reports of controversy surrounding the Abacha recovery.
“We wish to state that the sum of $322,515,931.83 was received into a Special Account in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on December 18, 2017, from the Swiss Government.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there is no controversy concerning the recovery of the Abacha monies from the Swiss Government,” he said.
Akintunde however said the Minister of Finance, frowned at a recent report that she objected to the payment of $16.9 million to two lawyers who recovered the Abacha funds.
The Federal Government had in 1999 hired Mr Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer to fasttrack the recovery of Abacha loot.
But, the Federal Government yesterday distanced itself from the statement credited to the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adesoun, over the refusal to remit the legal fees charged by lawyers for recovering the $322.51 million Abacha loot.
It was reported that the Finance Minister refused to approve the payment of $16.9 million dubious fees to two lawyers for the recovery of the $322 million.
She was also said to have written a strong-worded letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, to raise objections to the payment following revelations on a suspected sleaze.
The recovered sum was repatriated to Nigeria by the Swiss Government in December 2017 following the execution of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two countries for the judicious use of the recovery.
The government denial of the report came through the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, on Justice Sector Reform and Open Government Partnership, Mrs Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu.
Speaking at a media briefing at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Nwagwu, said the issue was addressed and a disclaimant to the statement earlier credited to Adesoun has been withdrawn.
‘If you visit the website of the Federal Ministry of Finance, you will see that that statement has been withdrawn. I think there was a problem and the statement was mistakenly issued without the consent of the Minister. The issue has been addressed and that particular statement had been retracted.’ She explained.
But a source in the Ministry of Finance challenged the Presidential Aide to show proof of her claim.
“There was never any statement. There was never any strongly-worded memo to the president. If there is any memo, please, bring it out.
“Let the SA provide evidence that there was once a statement on the website that was pulled down …”
Only yesterday, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said the Federal Government has made significant efforts in asset recovery efforts.
Malami who briefed the press through the Permanent Secretary and Solicitor General of the Federation, Mr. Dipo Akpata, on the activities of Open Government Partnership (OGP), disclosed that a new legislation would soon be in place to ensure that data is available to the public on ownership of recovered assets.
He said: “As many of you are aware, government has made significant efforts in asset recovery. A recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the co-monitoring of the expenditure of Abacha loot repatriated from Switzerland has been described by stakeholders as a model for other countries on how best to transparently utilise looted funds when they are returned to their countries of origin.
“This is in line with our deliberate policy to have a clear and transparent guidelines for managing all recovered assets in line with the anti-corruption commitments in the National Action Plan (NAP).
“Another area of progress is the ongoing effort to establish a public register of beneficial owners. The government of Nigeria hopes that this would inevitably end the era of anonymous company ownership that aids capital flight and illicit financial flows.
“The Nigeria Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), is working closely with the Government of the United Kingdom and the Open Ownership to develop Ownership Data Standards to achieve this goal. A new legislation that will ensure that data is available to the public is already in the parliament and should become enforceable before the end of 2018,” the minister disclosed.