Let’s start by congratulating the government of President Muhammadu Buhari for securing the release of 21 Chibok girls whose lives had been turned upside down in the last two years by the insurgents who
stormed their school premises to kidnap them. And we must also remember to pray for quick return of the remainder of the girls, who have become pawns in the hands of their abductors for years now.
That said, I need to tell it quickly that the Chibok matter is not the main offer here this week. I was taken aback by a revelation contained in an interview I conducted last week and have to share portions of
- It is all about the loot credited to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha. It was shocking to hear that thus far, Nigeria has only retrieved less than six per cent of the identified loot and to tell you, we have had about $1 billion repatriated thus far.
Chief Niyi Akintola (SAN), who spoke of the development in passing during the interview apparently had soaked in the shock and was no longer terrified by the fact. According to him, the details all emerged at a conference in the United States of America where a representative of the World Bank attempted to justify why Nigeria cannot possibly retrieve her stolen money.
Here is an excerpt from the interview: “Just about two and half weeks ago, we were in Washington. The issue of corruption in Nigeria came to the fore and throughout the six days (of the conference) the issue of corruption came up. It was not limited to Nigeria; it was widespread and I remember Femi Falana and I standing up to defend our president and the modus operandi in faraway Washington. Not that we love some of his tactics but we thought that a drastic problem requires a drastic solution. In fact, right there I suggested that Nigeria should withdraw its signature to all the Treaties that are hampering the fight against corruption, ICC treaties and what have you and I gave example of United States of America.
“My posture at the conference over that issue was necessitated by the World Bank representative who presented a paper and told us to our face the difficulties we will be facing to get our (Nigeria’s looted )
money back and he went on to the extent of saying that we must fight corruption with human face and I stood up to say look, why play the ostrich.
“Here in Washington, the capital of United States of America, you have adopted a system peculiar to you by establishing a place where you are keeping prisoners without following the rule of law. Nobody is
questioning you for that for the fact that you are the father of democracy all over the world. But you knew you could not do that within the four wall of United States, you moved them to somewhere
else and people are dying every day for twelve years running. Nobody is castigating you for that. In fact, United States is not a signatory to the ICC convention so as to escape being accused of war crimes. And
I said are you expecting Nigeria to comply with all these protocols limiting our efforts?
”You have just told us to our face that we have gotten less than 6 percent of our looted funds from Abacha alone. Abacha died since 1998 and almost 18 years now, and our money is lying down in the World Bank.”
That is it. Nigeria has only retrieved six percent of Abacha’s loot thus far.
The questions on the lips are many but the reality out there is for Nigeria to find its way. It is he who the shoe pinches that runs to the cobbler for assistance. If the country is only battling to receive six per cent of loot traceable to Abacha in 18 years, how many more years will it need to devote to make appreciable impact? How many more years would we need to tackle the myriads of other looters out there?
The reality out there is that the countries harbouring these loots are making good use of the funds for their economies. They are definitely going to sit tight on the loot for as long as possible.
I suggest that if the government needs to sign any treaty or agreements to get the loots returned to Nigeria, so be it. Except that treaty does not condemn the country to tampering with the social
psyche like introducing pro-gay laws.
But the matter should not just be about how to retrieve the loot. What do we do with the money? The plans should be well laid out long before the loots are retrieved. The plans, which should be backed by
appropriate legislation, should also be shown to the countries where the loots would originate.
So far, there are questions raised about the use of the loot recovered under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. I recall the former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala replying
one persistent civil society group that records of the expenditure incurred on Abacha loot are with the World Bank. The truth of course is that citizens are at a loss as to how the funds were used. It is
not enough to tell us that they were utilized to enhance transparency and accountability in governance. Those words point to some bottomless pit.
I have said this before and will still repeat. Let the government arm itself with legislations and amendments to the laws in aid of accountability in this country. When that is done, specific money can
be spent in clear ways. The current Federation Account that we run doesn’t give hop to judicial use of any returned loot.