Saturday, 22 February 2020

FG to use recovered Abacha loot for infrastructure, Bagudu will get nothing – AGF

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said on Saturday that the repatriated funds

looted by the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, would be used for the development of critical infrastructure in the country.

Malami, who said this in a statement released by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr. Umar Gwandu, said there was no form of agreement to hand over $100m out of the latest tranche of the recovered $300m Abacha loot to the Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, or any third-party interest.

He noted that Bagudu is pursuing separate cases in court in the United States and the United Kingdom to assert his right in connection with the Abacha loot.

He also disclosed that Nigeria was also cooperating with the United States in the recovery of several other assets “including corruption proceeds linked to former Petroleum Minister Deziani Alison-Madueke and her associates, and former State Governor James Ibori as well as several others.”

The United States Department of Justice had alleged that the Federal Government led by the President, Major Gen Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), is planning to hand over about $100m out of the Abacha loot to Bagudu.

The US Department further stated that the Nigerian government was blocking attempts to recover part of the looted funds allegedly traced to Bagudu, who is the Chairman of the All Progressives Congress governor’s forum.

The Department of Justice made the claim in court papers filed before the District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington, according to Bloomberg’s reports.

Bagudu, who is a close ally of Buhari and a prominent member of the APC, was indicted by the US Government for helping Abacha to transfer billions of dollars in the mid-90s.

According to documents from the Department of Justice, Bagudu spent six months in federal detention in Texas while awaiting extradition to the Island of Jersey.

However, before he was handed over for criminal trial in Jersey, he was said to have quickly agreed to return $163m to Nigeria and was released on bond to Nigeria where he was meant to be prosecuted for money laundering.

In his second reaction within 24 hours to the widely reported plan by the Buhari regime to hand over $100m to Bagudu, Malami said the repatriated fund would be used for infrastructural projects as agreed with the foreign countries from which the funds were recovered.

Malami insisted that the money would be used for projects namely, Abuja-Kano Road, Second Niger Bridge, and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

He described as “mischievous and pedestrian for anyone to seek to turn the law and the facts on its head on the matter of repatriation whose terms are clearly spelt out and agreed among the parties.”

He stated, “This long-standing cooperation recently culminated in the successful signing of memorandum of understanding for the repatriation of over $300 million looted assets associated with General Sani Abacha.

“It is pertinent to recall at this juncture that prior to the 2020 agreement with the United States and the Island of Jersey, the Federal Government has signed an agreement for the return  of  over $300 million US Dollars in 2017 which was effectively deployed for the purpose for which it was agreed to be applied without any issue of reputation

“The FGN is also negotiating the recovery of assets from several countries and the agreements for the recoveries and the procedure for recoveries are always presented to Federal Executive Council for approval and duly made public once the processes have been concluded.

“No third-party interest was captured in the Council memo that was approved by the Council.

“The 2017 repatriated funds were deployed to the implementation of the Social Investment program and is being monitored by civil society organisations across the country.

He said the Buhari regime  “remained committed to the recovery of whatever funds are owed Nigeria and the government in that regard has gone to court in different countries to assert its rights as a victim of corruption in order to have those assets returned to Nigeria.”

On the Bagudu’s link to the funds, Malami said, “It is well known that the USA and the Bagudu family have been in court since 2014 over assets already rescinded under the 2003 Agreement.

“The matters are to be determined in the United Kingdom and the United States Courts.

“The Bagudu family assets in contention, which constitutes a distinct and separate cause of action, does not have anything to do with the assets already recovered and being recovered under the Abacha 2014 non-prosecution agreement.”

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