Nigeria’s Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, has flayed those who he claims wanted to frustrated the repatriation of $311million looted by late Head of State, Sani Abacha.
In a statement on Wednesday, Malami told such persons to “bury their heads in shame”.
The federal government on Monday, received the funds from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
The litigation process for the recovery of the loot, which is part of the $5billion allegedly stolen by Abacha, commenced in 2014.
Malami also fired at those who criticised his use of “Abacha assets” to describe the stolen funds.
“It is palpable that news about successful return of the looted assets have brought nightmares to naysayers and pessimists who wanted to frustrate the repatriation process through a campaign of calumny.
“They resorted to rhetoric instead of burying their heads in shame,” part of the statement read.
The United States Government has told Nigeria to be ready to “replace” the $300m General Sani Abacha loot it returned to the country if the fund was misused.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, the money must be used for the agreed public projects highlighted in the agreement signed with it before the fund was returned to Nigeria.
The United States and the British dependency of Jersey agreed with the Nigerian Government in February to return the $300m Abacha loot, according to Media.
The U.S. Justice Department outlined the so-called “claw back” provision in a response to a query from a powerful American senator questioning the prudence of returning the cash.
“Should any of the parties — including the United States —conclude that any of the returned funds had been used for an ineligible expenditure, a “claw-back” provision would then obligate the FRN (Nigeria) to replace fully any such improperly diverted monies,” the letter said.
It did not specify how and to whom the money would be “replaced”.
The provision is notable as Nigeria continues efforts to repatriate money allegedly stolen during Abacha’s brutal regime from 1993 until his death in 1998.
Transparency International estimates that he stole as much as $5bn of public funds during that time.
The Nigerian government has received $311,797,866.11 recovered assets of General Sani Abacha repatriated from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
The Attorney-General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, confirmed this on Monday in a statement by the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations at his office, Dr Umar Gwandu.
According to Malami, the amount increased significantly from over $308 million mentioned in an earlier statement in February to over $311million as a result of the interest that accrued from February 3 to April 28, when the fund was transferred to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He noted that the litigation process for the return of the assets titled ‘Abacha III’ commenced in 2014 while the diplomatic process that culminated in the signing of the Asset Return Agreement commenced in 2018.
The agreement was signed on February 3 by the governments of Nigeria, the United States, and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
“This Agreement is based on international law and cooperation measures that sets out the procedures for the repatriation, transfer, disposition, and management of the assets,” he said.
More to follow…
The House of Representatives has set up an enquiry into allegations that the recently recovered $308 million Abacha loot which the Presidency said will be used to expedite work on three major infrastructures i.e. Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Abuja – Kano Expressway and the Second Niger bridge may be diverted into private accounts, using Julius Berger, as a conduit.
The House Committee on Works, it was learnt at the weekend, has resolved to summon the Minister of Works, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, and the management of Julius Berger Plc over the allegations.
Recall that the House of Representatives on Thursday last week, directed its Committee on Works, to set up an inquiry into allegations of contractual malfeasance to the tune of N206billion, involving the ongoing 2nd Niger Bridge project.
A motion of “National Importance”, sponsored by Rep. Ifeanyi Chudi Momah, representing Ihiala Federal Constituency of Anambra State, entitled: “House to Investigate Julius Berger FMWH, NSIA, others Over Contract Monopoly”, was adopted by the House.
The House in adopting the Motion alleged that phase 1 was awarded on Public-Private Partnership bases and 2(a) and 2(b) of the 2nd Niger Bridge, was to be awarded as traditional contracts at the rate of N118billion, the government allegedly breached the deal and awarded same to Julius Berger at the whopping cost of N206billion.
“Phase 2 of the job was to be awarded as Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer basis under PPP scheme, phase 2a and 2b were to be awarded as traditional contracts, the same job, has now been awarded to Julius Berger for N206Billion, as against the cost of N118Billion valued by BPP”.
The motion advised that “A Swiss challenge bid process, ought to be adopted to avoid a situation of potential conflict of interest”.
The House lamented that all projects handled by Julius Berger, under the SUKUK arrangement, were defective and proceeding at snail speed.
The Green Chamber alleged further that there was evidence of slow pace of work on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano-Zaria-Kano Expressway and the 2nd Niger Bridge, leading to traffic and deaths.
“Julius Berger is involved in all these three critical projects and other major road projects under SUKUK. All these projects, are lagging behind schedule, which brings to fore, Julius Berger’s capacity to handle the projects, simultaneously”, the motion stated.
The House accused the government of flouting sections of the Public Procurement Act, and denying Nigerians, the required transparency, due process and judicious application of resources for the contract.
“The use of Direct Procurement (Section 42 of the Public Procurement Act), in awarding these projects, as against the Opening competitive Bidding (section 24 of the Public Procurement Act), have deprived Nigerians of transparency, due process and potential to save money”.
After a brief debate of the Motion, the House urged the Works Committee, to determine if the contractors had the capacity to deliver the contracts awarded as scheduled.
The Committee is to also “investigate the level of work done on Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Abuja-Kano-Zaria-Kano Expressway and 2nd Niger Bridge, in order to determine if the amount disbursed so far, has a commensurate value with the job done till date”, and to “determine if there is a potential conflict of interest in awarding the contracts to a single contractor”, and to also “determine if the contract sums, have been inflated”.
The Committee, with Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, presiding, was given 4 weeks, to report its findings and recommendations, back to the House in 4 weeks”.
These projects were designed to be funded by Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), domiciled at Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, for effective funding.
As at December last year, 19,520,949,317.16 was released to Section 1 of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, N80,242,079,039.46 to the 2nd Niger Bridge, N50,856,044,301.27 to Abuja-Kano-Zaria-Kano Expressway, totalling N150,619,072,657.89.