US signs agreement to return $23 million Abacha loot to Nigeria
United States (US) government has signed an agreement to repatriate $23 million looted by a former military head of state General Sani Abacha to Nigeria.
Nigeria’s attorney-general and justice minister Abubakar Malami at the signing of the agreement in Abuja said the decision to return the stolen funds, which is tagged ‘Abacha-5’, was a product of a series of negotiations and meetings between Nigeria, the US department of justice and the UK National Crime Agency.
The attorney-general said President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the recovered loot to fund the completion of the Abuja-Kano road, Lagos-Ibadan expressway and the Second Niger Bridge.
“The president’s mandate to my office is to ensure that all international recoveries are transparently invested and monitored by civil society organizations to compete for these three projects within the agreed timeline,” Malami said.
US ambassador to Nigeria Mary Leonard disclosed that US department of justice and the FBI seized these funds in response to “General Abacha and his associates’ violation of US laws” when they laundered these assets to the US and into accounts in the UK.
“These actions were a flagrant breach of the Nigerian people’s trust. But today is the result of an extensive and high level corporation between the US, UK and the federal republic of Nigeria to make the Nigerian people whole,” Leonard said.
“This agreement is also a kind of collaboration that our government must continue in order to right the wrongs committed under the previous regimes.
“Combined with a $311.7m seized and repatriated with the assistance of the Bailiwick of Jersey and the government of Nigeria in 2020, this repatriation brings the total amount of funds repatriated in this case by the US to more than $334.7 million.
“In other words, these recovered criminal proceeds, like the $311.7m previously seized and repatriated, will be transformed into a visible and impactful representation of the possibilities of government assets that directly improve the lives of average Nigerians.
The US official said the US government is aware of the devastating impact corruption has on Nigeria and other societies, saying it erodes trust and the ability of governments to deliver to dividends of governance to citizens.
“It is in recognition of the role corruption plays in undermining democracy that the US considers the fight against corruption as a core national security interest. To that end, President Biden really supported the US strategy in countering corruption last December,” Leonard said.
Leonard assured that the US will not be a safe haven for looted funds from any country in the world.