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Justice ministry, CSOs strengthen monitoring of recovered loot

The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) (4th from Left), the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed (4th from Right) and other officials during the launch of the VOARS in ABuja recently
The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) (4th from Left), the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed (4th from Right) and other officials during the launch of the VOARS in ABuja recently

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has advocated strong ties with civil society organisations in monitoring the management of all repatriated funds.

The call followed the success in the management of the second tranche of funds recovered from former Head of State, late General Sani Abacha, which is being disbursed to the poor.

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The chairperson of the Technical Committee and Head of the Secretariat for the implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy (NACS) in the ministry, Mrs Ladidi Mohammed, made this known on Thursday at the annual learning summit of the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) in Abuja.

Mrs Mohammed said CSOs and the media must keep track of the repatriated funds and seek clarification on its management. She added that the ongoing negotiations for the repatriation of the funds is being hampered by the inability of the sub-national governments to abide by the terms of the projects where the funds will be utilized.

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On the Diepreye Alamieyeseigha and Ibori loots, she said the courts in the countries where the funds have been taken, and the World Bank have favoured the use of the funds in projects that would directly benefit the poor in Bayelsa and Delta states respectively.

Mrs Mohammed said unlike the $322.5m Abacha loot repatriated from Switzerland, the third tranche would not be shared to indigent citizens. The initial tranche of $500m was repatriated in March 2015.

“The Abacha Three negotiations have gone far. It will not be used for cash transfer. It will be used to bridge the infrastructure gap,” she said, adding that the AGF has been involved in all the negotiations with the United States for the repatriation of the funds.

She said the recently unveiled Voluntary Offshore Assets Regularisation Scheme (VOARS) was part of the Federal Government’s move to use repatriated assets to fund infrastructure tax free. She said the programme is backed by Executive Order 8.

“It is a redemption for many with offshore assets because we know where the funds are through intelligence sharing agreements,” she said.

Also speaking, the chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, Chukwuka Utazi, tasked civil society and Nigerians to continue to ensure the transparent and accountable management of recovered loot, which he said cannot be left to the government alone to manage.

He assured that the newly passed Proceeds of Crime Act (Bill) would be assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari before the end of April, adding that the bill would help address the pressure on Nigeria by international bodies over the anti-corruption war, especially on the transparent management of repatriated assets.

“We had always had issues with asset management, it had been the issue that the agency that gets these assets on behalf of us would want to manage them. We don’t just want to say they shouldn’t do so,” he said.

“Everything I do, I try to have first experience; I don’t work on hearsay. As the chairman, Senate Committee on Anti-Corruption and Financial Crimes, I did oversight and I saw things for myself, and so I am convinced that the agencies cannot manage what they have. There must be another body that should manage the asset received and manage it transparently to ensure accountability,” he added.

Earlier, the Executive Director of ANEEJ, Rev. David Ugolor, said the annual event is to strengthen the capacity of CSOs to monitor the use of recovered assets, and to change the behaviour of Nigerians that tend to fuel corruption.

Ugolor said the CSO through its Monitoring of Recovered Assets in Nigeria Through Transparency and Accountability (MANTRA) project is monitoring the management of the $900m by former governor of Bayelsa State, Alamieyeseigha’s loot from the United Kingdom, and the $250m loot from former Delta State governor, James Ibori in the UK.

He said the CSO has developed policy paper on the knowledge it gathered across the field with 500 monitors on the conditional cash transfer of the Abacha loot.

Ugolor said the paper, which has now been adopted by the United Nations, will help to reposition Nigeria as an authority on issues of the management of illicit funds.

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