The Attorney General of the Federation and Minster of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, on Tuesday, disclosed plans by the Federal Government to engage acclaimed consultants in its bid to recover another $750m looted and stashed away by a former Head of State, the late Gen. Sani Abacha.
He stated that another £6.9m loot, held by a former Governor of Delta State, Mr. James Ibori, would also be recovered.
The minister, who spoke on the government’s plans when he met with the House of Representatives Committee on Justice, added that the country’s judgment debts stood at N75bn.
The federal government will appoint a foreign lawyer in its effort to recover a total of N150 billion stashed abroad by late former Head of State, General Sani Abacha and former Delta state governor, James Ibori.
Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami announced this in Abuja yesterday while testifying before the House of Representatives committee on Justice.
He said the money was made up N148. Billion ($750 million) allegedly laundered by Abacha and N1. 98 billion (£6.9 million) by Ibori.
Malami said the government would “engage in an aggressive policy” to seek the cooperation of foreign governments to “ensure the repatriation of illicitly-acquired assets.”
According to him, “The collaboration will equally involve the engagement of foreign-based counsel to attend to the matters on behalf of the Federal Government.
“Low-hanging fruits being targeted in this initiative include $750m of the ‘Abacha Loot’ as well as the sum of GBP6.9m of the ‘Ibori loot.’”
The ministry would be in the position to coordinate the recovery of billions of dollars in foreign jurisdictions based on current estimations, he said.
Late Abacha, who ruled Nigeria between 1993 and 1998, allegedly laundered about $5 billion abroad, according to Transparency International.
Liechtenstein agreed to return $227 million in June 2014, while the U.S. froze some $458m hidden by Abacha in bank accounts. Switzerland had in the past returned about $700 million and promised to return another $380m.
The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced in August, 2014, that it would repatriate about $480 million to Nigeria.
Part of the returned funds budgeted for purchase of arms was allegedly diverted by top officials of the immediate past administration, which resulted in the ongoing arms probe, involving former National Security Adviser (NSA) Rtd Col Sambo Dasuki and top military officers.
Some European countries like Britain have now set conditions for the return of stolen funds to Nigeria.
As for former Delta State governor, Ibori, (1999 to 2007), who is currently serving a jail term in the United Kingdom for money laundering, he is said to have helped himself with public funds to the tune of over £30 million among others.
Only last week, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the return of stolen Nigerian funds moved to that county.
He said, the ministry would rely on the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 (ACJA) and the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2013 to ensure expeditious prosecution of those accused of terrorism.
He said based on the criminal justice law, the ministry had so far recovered 8,000 files from the Nigeria Police to be prosecuted by the ministry’s in-house lawyers.
He added that the ministry was currently processing about 800 terrorism cases for prosecution, saying the funds required for the successful prosecution of the cases as well as the general coordination of the criminal justice sector “were fully captured” in the ministry’s budget proposal.
He said the ministry would remain committed to the promotion and defence of constitutional values and principles in governance.
On the ministry’s 2016 budget proposal, he said the ministry needed an additional N960.888 million for harmonization of salaries of state counsel in order to bring them relatively at par with their counterparts in states’ ministries of justice and other institutions within the justice sector.
To this end, he said, provision of N300,000 was made as annual ‘robe allowance’ to each state counsel in line with practice.
Credit: Daily Trust