FG to spend $318m Abacha loot on Lagos/Ibadan, Abuja/Kano expressways

The Federal Government, in the United States, on Tuesday said it was committed to ensuring that the Abacha loot being recovered would be judiciously used to provide infrastructure for the masses.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, while signing a tripartite agreement between the Nigerian government, Government of Jersey and the United States of America on recovery of over $300 million looted fund, said the fund would assist in expediting the construction of three major infrastructure projects across Nigeria, the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Abuja-Kano road and the Second Niger Bridge.

Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations to the Minister, Dr Umar Gwandu, in a statement on Tuesday, said Malami recalled specifically the Federal Government’s agreement with Switzerland and the World Bank with particular reference to the disbursement of the $322 million repatriated from Switzerland in 2018 under a World Bank monitored social investment programme targeted at poor households.

According to the statement, the AGF signed the agreement on behalf of the Nigerian government, while the Solicitor-General and Attorney-General designate of Jersey, Mark Temple QC, signed on behalf of Jersey, as the Deputy Assistant Attorney, Brian Benczkowski, announced the agreement on behalf of the United States.

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In his address during the signing ceremony, Malami said the “agreement has culminated in a major victory for Nigeria and other African countries, as it recognises that crime does not pay and that it is important for the international community to seek for ways to support sustainable development through the recovery and repatriation of stolen assets.”

According to Malami, the projects were being executed under the supervision of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority as a public-private partnership that would boost economic growth and help alleviate poverty by connecting people and supply chains from the East to the West and to the northern part of Nigeria, a vast area covering several kilometres with millions of the country’s population set to benefit from the road infrastructure.

Mark Temple QC, who signed the agreement on behalf of Jersey, said: “This represents the culmination of two decades of intensive work by Law Officers in Jersey, the United States and Nigeria.”

The return of the assets to Nigeria had been delayed by a number of hard-fought challenges by third parties which were defeated in the courts in Jersey and the United States.

“This is a very significant achievement and, once again, demonstrates Jersey’s commitment to tackling international financial crime and money laundering,” Temple QC said.

Deputy Assistant Attorney, Brian Benczkowski, who announced the agreement on behalf of the United States, said “the Department is pleased to enter into this agreement with The Bailiwick of Jersey and the Federal Republic of Nigeria to return this enormous amount of stolen funds for the benefit of the people harmed by corruption in Nigeria.

“Through the recovery of these funds and this mutual agreement, the people of Nigeria can see the money they lost to corruption in flagrant disregard of the rule of law is returned through a lawful

process and in a manner that ensures transparent and accountable use of the funds.”

Meanwhile, The United State Department of Justice has accused Abacha; his son, Mohammed; their associate, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, who is the current governor of Kebbi State and others of embezzlement, misappropriation and extortion of billions from the government of Nigeria.

It also accused them of laundering the criminal proceeds through the United States financial institutions and the purchase of bonds backed by the United States.

“General Abacha and his cronies robbed Nigerians of vast public resources and abused the US and international financial systems to launder their criminal proceeds,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

“The United States is also continuing to seek forfeiture of over $177 million in additional laundered funds held in trusts that name Abacha’s associate Bagudu and his relatives as beneficiaries.

“The United States has asked the government of Nigeria to withdraw litigation it has instituted in the United Kingdom that hinders the US effort to recover these additional funds for the people of Nigeria,” a statement from the US Department of Justice stated.

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