Tuesday, March 8, 2016 7:38 pm
The Federal Government has welcomed an offer of the Swiss government to return $321m stolen funds from Nigeria under the Abacha government, and is now developing a framework that will aid the repatriation of such stolen assets stashed abroad by those who have looted from the country’s resources in the past.
Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, made this disclosure today at the Presidential Villa, Abuja during a meeting with a Swiss delegation led by the country’s Federal Councillor and Head of its Foreign Affairs Department, Mr. Didier Burkhalter and the Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Eric Mayoruz.
“We guarantee that recovered assets would be put to uses for which they have been intended,” according to the Vice President who explained that the framework being developed would ensure exactly that.
Prof. Osinbajo said the framework once finalised will be made available publicly, and it would cover the whole spectrum from the source of the stolen asset to how it would be managed once recovered.
He said “the framework will guarantee that returned assets will be used in the interest of the people of this country.”
To ensure this, in the proposed 2016 Budget, the federal government has already included anticipated funds from the recovery effort on the funding side.
Commending the Swiss government on its assistance in repatriating the country’s stolen assets, the Vice President said the federal government appreciates the Swiss government for their very laudable efforts, noting that the “Swiss has always been at the forefront of returning stolen assets and ensuring that the people of Nigeria gets the benefit.”
Later the Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, signed an agreement described as a “Letter of Intent” between the Swiss government and the Nigerian government on the restitution of illegally-acquired assets forfeited in Switzerland. Mr. Burkhalter signed the letter for the Swiss government.
Under the agreement the Swiss government will award to Nigeria $321m “of funds illicitly acquired by the Abacha family, initially deposited in Luxembourg and confiscated by the Judiciary of the Republic and Canton of Geneva pursuant to a Forfeiture order dated 11th December 2014.”
The Swiss minister told State House Correspondents at the end of ceremony that the event was a milestone in the effort to complete the return of the late Abacha’s illegally acquired funds stashed in his country.
“We are confident that we can work together in order to make a new point and step in fighting corruption. The fight against corruption is a priority of our government and it is important to work together in order to restitute the money that has been stolen to the population.
“Switzerland and Nigeria have already written the history 10 years ago with the restitution of 700 million dollars of the Abacha funds.
“Today, it is another amount of 321 million dollars that can be restituted. We are at the end of the process but it is very important now to make everything right and above all to organise a monitoring mechanism by the World Bank for the use of these stolen assets.
“And then, there will be a restitution and it will be and can be swift, transparent and can be at the end for the good of the population.’’
According to Burkhalter, it is important to show a common will by Nigeria and Switzerland by the signing of this letter of intent to go that way and to move ahead.
He said that there was a legal requirement in the decision of the prosecutor in Switzerland to ensure judicious use of the money when repatriated.
“There is the necessity of a monitoring mechanism by the World Bank and it is also necessary to have good projects in social way. For instance, there could be the initiative to save one million lives.
“If we have this mechanism by the World Bank for monitoring and the good project to the good of the population, then the money will be restituted.’’
Burkhalter said he was not aware of any other funds illegally kept in his country besides the Abacha loot.