The Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and the Nigeria Coordinator of Transparency International (TI), Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, said that it was a well-established fact that Kebbi State Governor Abubakar Bagudu assisted late General Abacha and his son to embezzle, misappropriate and extort billions from the government of Nigeria and others.
He said CISLAC was frustrated that the Nigerian government seemed to use a legal obstruction based on a 17-year-old agreement that entitles Bagudu to the funds and prevents Nigeria from assisting the U.S.
“It is scandalous that Buhari’s government refuses to assist the U.S. because it’s bound by a settlement Bagudu reached with the administration of then-President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003, according to US court filings.
“If this case is not settled and Mr. Bagudu is allowed to enjoy his political privileges stemming from his prominent APC membership, the current administration will lose any credibility to demand the return of stolen assets from abroad.
“This whole episode confirms the political nature of the anti-corruption fight. US court filings reveal the extent and role of the current elite in the looting of Nigeria by Sani Abacha.
“Recovery of stolen assets abroad is potentially a windfall of much needed revenues for the stricken economy and unparalleled poverty. The government of Nigeria claims that international partners do not cooperate in investigation and repatriation of stolen assets,” Rafsanjani said.
According to him, the Bagudu case provides a reason for this lack of cooperation as the basic precondition of the preclusion of the benefit of offenders, or enjoying the looted funds by those that stole the assets, is not guaranteed in Nigeria.
He added that if no drastic action is taken, Nigerian government will sacrifice repatriation of billions of dollars to maintain political protégés.
He said: “We therefore call on the government of Nigeria to further clarify this issue and clear doubt.
“Also, government should ensure that we have a legal framework that will manage recovered assets and utility it for the benefit of Nigerians.”
On his part, the Executive Director, YIAGA Africa, Samson Itodo, a lawyer, said the federal government’s action is double standard.
“It raises questions on the fight against corruption. It’s obvious there are separate rules for different category of persons.
“Once you have access to the President or in the President’s party you are shielded from prosecution.
“Actions like this not only ridicule us in the international community but it affirms the beliefs that Nigeria thrives on corruption and you can’t eradicate corruption in this country,” Itodo said.
Also, Mr. Oluwadare Kolawole, Deputy Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), said: “The federal government’s position, if true, will be inconsistent with its avowed commitment to fight corruption and recover all looted funds.”
Also speaking to Daily Trust, the CEO of Connected Development (CODE) Mr. Hamzah B. Lawal, said the development is shameful as persons in power continue to ‘sell-us’ in this country.
“The complexity of repatriating the looted Abacha funds is quite ridiculous, to be honest. How can a huge cut of that amount be given to one man? Whoever signed such an agreement was intent on selling the future of Nigeria.
“How can our so called leaders not see this! This is the height of selfishness and greed! Some people cannot die well. Until Nigerians speak against this injustice, government’s lack of transparency and secrecy will get the best of us in this country,” Lawal said.
There is an alleged attempts by the federal government to hand over about $100 million United States authorities say was stolen by a former Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, to the Kebbi State Governor who is a top member of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
But Bagudu has denied any wrong doing. A Bloomberg report said a commitment by Nigeria to transfer the funds to Bagudu appeared to undermine President Muhammadu Buhari’s pledge to check corruption in the country.