The federal government yesterday recovered $311.7 million Abacha loot from the United States of America and the Bailiwick of Jersey. The cash drawdown, which was confirmed by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, forms part three of the cash stashed away by the former Nigerian head of state, Sani Abacha. According to the AGF, the total cash haul amounted to $311,797,866.11, slightly higher than the original sum of $308million negotiated and agreed among the three states in the deal which was announced by his office on February 3. The said additional $3.7 million was the interest that accrued from February 3 to April 28, 2020, when the fund was transferred to the Central Bank of Nigeria. Malami acknowledged in a statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Garba, that the litigation process for the return of the assets, entitled “Abacha III” commenced in 2014, while the diplomatic process that culminated in the signing of the Asset Return Agreement on February 3, 2020, by the federal government, United States of America and the Bailiwick of Jersey, commenced in 2018. The statement read: “This Agreement is based on international law and cooperation measures that set out the procedures for the repatriation, transfer, disposition, and management of the assets. ‘’The recovery effort further consolidates on the established record of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government, which has a history of recovery of $322m from Switzerland, in 2018, which is being transparently and judiciously deployed in supporting indigent Nigerians as specified in the agreement signed with Switzerland and the World Bank.
’The Justice Minister, who led the negotiation team, noted that the tripartite agreement and the process towards the implementation represents a major watershed in International Asset Recovery and Repatriation as it seeks to provide benefit to the victims of corruption. “In line with the 2020 Asset Return Agreement, the fund has been transferred to a Central Bank of Nigeria Asset Recovery designated account and would be paid to the National Sovereign Investment Authority, NSIA, within the next fourteen days. ‘’The NSIA is responsible for the management and execution of the projects to which the funds will be applied,’’ Malami said the federal government has committed itself to the fact that the assets would support and assist in expediting the construction of three major infrastructure projects across Nigeria, namely the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Abuja – Kano Road, and The Second Niger Bridge. He said the government was in the process of establishing a project monitoring team to oversee the implementation of the projects and report regularly on progress made to the public. To ensure transparent management of the returned assets, the federal government will also engage a Civil Society Organisation with combined expertise in substantial infrastructure projects, civil engineering, anti-corruption compliance, anti-human trafficking compliance, and procurement to provide additional monitoring and oversight. It will be recalled that the recovered funds were laundered through the U.S. banking system and then held in bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey. In 2014, a U.S. Federal Court in Washington D.C. forfeited the money as property involved in the illicit laundering of the proceeds of corruption arising in Nigeria during the period from 1993 to 1998 when General Abacha was Head of State. In 2017, the federal government filed a case in the Bailiwick of Jersey to assert its authority as the owner of these funds and as the victim of the action of General Abacha. The minister pledged that the Federal Government would ensure that the returned assets were transparently managed.