We’ve reached out to US on stolen funds’ repatriation – Osinbajo

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Vice-President-Yemi-Osinbajo
  • As US sells N181bn warplanes, weapons to Nigeria over B’Haram
  • And Fed Govt, U.S. congressmen discuss security, humanitarian issues

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has said the present administration has reached out to the United States government to step up its assistance in ensuring that corrupt officials do not have a safe haven in the US for their loot.

According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, the Vice-President spoke during a visit of a US Congressional Delegation to the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Monday.

“We have reached out to the US government with respect with helping us with the repatriation of proceeds of crime and proceeds of corruption,” he was quoted as saying.

Osinbajo reportedly told the delegation that the present administration regarded corruption as an existential threat that must be dealt with at its root.

Osinbajo added, “We have worked quite closely with the US government on repatriation of funds, we have seen some results.

“We think that this is very important because what tends to happen with corrupt public officials is that if they are able to find a safe haven for the proceeds of their criminality, not only are they encouraged as individuals but there is the general feeling that ‘if I am able to get the proceeds out of the country, I might just get away with it.’

“This is one of the reasons why we have taken several actions to ensure that we are able to deal with it because some of the major dislocations in the economy are on account of the problems that we have seen with corruption.

“The Buhari presidency’s strategy which is one of the most effective ways of fighting corruption is ensuring that these proceeds are unsafe and for people to know that they would be found out and they would be punished for it and we would seize whatever profit they had make.’’

On the return of the Chibok girls, the Vice-President reportedly said, “it is a issue on the front burner for us all the time. There is no question of not continuing to negotiate and looking for the girls.’’

Meanwhile, the Headquarters of the United States Department of Defence, the Pentagon, has informed the US Congress of the sale of 12 Super Tucano A-29 ground attack aircraft and weapons to Nigeria to fight the Boko Haram insurgency.

Reuters reported that the Pentagon communicated the sale of the 12 ground attack aircraft valued at $593m (N181bn) to the US Congress on Monday.

The report quoted Pentagon’s Defence Security Cooperation Agency as having made the announcement to the US legislature.

The Super Tucano A-29, “an agile, propeller-driven plane with reconnaissance and surveillance as well as attack capabilities, is made by Brazil’s Embraer.”

The US had in April, this year, agreed  to sell high-tech aircraft to Nigeria to tackle  the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East.

United States officials told the Associated Press that the Congress was  expected to receive formal notification within weeks, setting in motion the deal with Nigeria.

They added that the arrangement would call for Nigeria purchasing up to 12 Embraer A-29 Super Tucano aircraft with sophisticated targeting gear.

The purchase will gulp about $600m, said the  officials in April. They were, however, unauthorised to discuss the terms of the sale publicly and preferred anonymity on the diplomatic conversations.

The United States had before this new development, blocked Nigeria from acquiring the Super Tucano ground attack aircraft from Brazil in November, 2016 because of allegations of human rights violations against the Nigerian military.

In the meantime, eight United States congressmen arrived in Nigeria yesterday for talks with the Federal Government on security and humanitarian matters.

The delegation began their four-day visit with a meeting with National Assembly members led by Senate President Bukola Saraki.

Senator Christopher Coons (D-Delaware) is leading the team.  Coons is a member of the Appropriations, Foreign Relations, Judiciary, Small Business and Entrepreneurship and Ethics committees.

Other members of the delegation are: Senators Gary Peters (D-Michigan); Michael Bennet (D-Colorado); Representatives Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Delaware); Terri Sewell (D-Alabama); Charlie Dent (R-Pennsylvania); Barbara Lee (D-California) and Frederica Wilson(D-Florida).

The congressmen, who are on tour of West Africa, will also visit Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and The Gambia.

In Abuja, they will meet with a range of high-ranking leaders to gain a fulsome picture of the bilateral relationship.

They are scheduled to meet with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Senate President Saraki, House Speaker Yakubu Dogara, other members of the National Assembly, and religious and civil society leaders.

The congressmen will also visit Lagos, where trade and investment relations will be discussed.

In the country’s financial capital, they will meet with business executives, tour the Egbin Thermal Power Plant, participate in an American Business Council roundtable, and conclude with a reception featuring alumni of the Young African Leaders Initiative and the Tony Elemelu Foundation.

Accompanied by Ambassador Symminton, the U.S. lawmakers discussed security, the humanitarian crisis in the Northeast and ways to build a better working relationship between the parliaments of both countries.

A statement from the Senate President’s media office reported Saraki as saying: “Today’s meeting was held to discuss ways to improve the relationship between the U.S. and Nigeria; look at securing greater support in the fight against terrorism and for the humanitarian crisis in different parts of the country.

“We also discussed improving agriculture in Nigeria and providing jobs for our people.”

Saraki said the congressional delegation and the National Assembly discussed ways to strengthen the institutional relationships between Nigeria and the United States.

Punch with additional report from Nation