Negotiations between Nigeria, the United States of America and the Island of Jersey for the return of fresh $300m from former Head of State, late General Sani Abacha, has reached an advanced stage, Daily Trust heard yesterday. The Special Assistant to the President on Justice Sector Reform and National Coordinator for Open Government Partnership, Mrs Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu, A presidential aide, also said the figures being reported [£210m – equivalent to $267m or N82bn) are wrong.
She said negotiations and litigation on money have been ongoing for over three years between the USA, Island of Jersey and Nigeria. The presidential aide refuted reports that the money will be divided between Nigeria, US and Jersey. Mrs Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu said the decision of the court in Jersey is that the fund belongs to Nigeria, adding that the concluding part of the negotiation is to determine how it would be utilised. “We have been in court over the fund; finally the court has agreed the money be refunded to Nigeria.
The procedure requires that Nigeria, Jersey Island and USA should sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on how the funds should be managed,” she said. “President Muhammadu Buhari has approved that the fund be used for infrastructure. So it would be designated Infrastructure Fund. And when it finally comes to Nigeria, we don’t know how long it would take on the ongoing MoU and asset sharing agreement. When that is finalised, then the Government of Nigeria would now inform Nigerians that the fund has come to Nigeria.
“But the fund is not going to come to Nigeria until all these procedures have been put in place,” she added. The Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, who is currently supervising the ministry, did not respond to inquiries through his mobile phone line. Reports claimed that the ‘fresh’ fund was put in accounts held in Jersey by Doraville Properties Corporation, a British Virgin Islands company on behalf of Abacha. According to the reports also, the Royal Court froze the fund in 2014 and following series of litigation, the fund was on May 31 paid into Jersey’s Civil Asset Recovery Fund.
Jersey’s attorney general, Robert McRae QC, said the seizure “demonstrated [Jersey’s] commitment to tackling international financial crime and money laundering”. The late Abacha was in power from 1993 until his death in 1998. It would be recalled that the Federal Government had received the sum of $752m Abacha loot from Switzerland in March, 2005, which was said to have gone into infrastructure. Nigeria also received another $322.5m from Switzerland in December 2017, which is being used for cash transfers to the poor.
The repatriations followed court pronouncements and MoUs between Nigeria, World Bank and Switzerland with monitoring by the civil society on the utilisation. One of the Swiss officials involved in the negotiations with Nigeria, Roberto Balzaretti, had told the BBC in 2017 that strict conditions were attached to the transfer of the money back to Nigeria and would be supervised by the World Bank, which will also conduct regular audits. Mr Balzaretti added that if the money was not properly accounted for, subsequent payment would be halted to prevent the funds from being stolen again.