Nigeria recovers $85m Malabu loot from UK

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…As FEC approves draft 2018 Appropriation Bill***

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami Thursday announced that the Federal Government had just recovered $85million Malabu fund from the United Kingdom (UK).

“I am also pleased to inform that Nigeria has just recovered the sum of $85million on the Malabu funds from UK.”

He spoke at the Agenda for Pre-Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) Consultative Meeting organized by the Mac Arthur Foundation and the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) in Abuja.

Malami also added that the Federal Government of Nigeria was concluding negotiation with that of Switzerland on the return of $331million recovered from the family of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha.

According to him, the Civil Society Organizations will be involved in the monitoring of the utilization of the funds.

He stressed that with the conclusion of the negotiation, the different countries involved are to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the repatriation of the funds in the next few weeks.

The minister said that “we are indeed concluding negotiation with Switzerland on the return of $331million recovered from the late Abacha family. I am pleased to inform that Civil Society Organizations were involved in the negotiation of the Memorandum of Understanding.

“Most importantly, the Civil Society Organizations will be involved in monitoring the use of funds. With the conclusion of negotiation, parties are to sign a Memorandum of Understanding at the global forum at Asset Recovery meeting and repatriation all follow within weeks as agreed by the parties. ”

He recalled that Nigeria has implemented the United Nations Convention Against Corruption requirement through the development of National Strategy on Anti-Corruption.

The National Strategy on Ant-Corruption, according to Malami, was adopted by Nigeria and has been approved by the Federal Executive Council in July this year, which the President is expected to launch in due course.

He revealed that the Nigeria is currently reviewing its anti-corruption laws, noting that the Federal Government has signed government partnership initiative and completed the National Anti-Corruption national action plan with practical implementation in the country.

Malami noted that President Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to launch the National Action Plan very soon.

He said that “it is pertinent to state at this point that the repatriation of our stolen wealth need very tedious several bilateral agreements entered into between Nigeria and other jurisdictions.”

Even when the provision of the United Nations Convention against corruption obliged same, the minister said that, parties to facilitate the return of stolen assets between Nigeria and parties are facing several challenges.

He said that his office has held talks with office of interests during the global forum on asset recovery.

He said the countries include the United Kingdom, United State of America, Canada, Switzerland, South Africa, Panama, United Arab Emirates, Northern Ireland, Gambia and others.

The Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, Eric Mayoroz said Switzerland and the government of Buhari are committed to fight against corruption.

He noted that his country changed its legislation in the last decade so that stolen money could not be deposited there.

The envoy said that his country’s law on money laundering is now the global model in the fight against the crime.

According to him Switzerland was the first country to return stolen funds to Nigeria from the western world after it recovered $22million from the late Abacha’s family.

He said that then, the Swiss Justice discovered that there were still other assets owned by the family in the country and it froze hundreds of million dollars deposited by the family in the banks.

The envoy added that after an agreement was signed by the Swiss government and that government of Nigeria in 2014,  the Swiss Attorney General in Geneva decided that the money about $320million  should be given back to Nigeria.

It urged negotiation with the government of Nigeria and the modalities emerged in 2016 when Malami and the Swiss AGF signed the letter of intent ,that the money should be protected from another attempt of being looted again.

He added that in June 2016, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo chose the projects to use the money on to include those that would benefit the poorest in the society and that it would be monitored by the World Bank.

In the meantime, the Federal Executive Council on Thursday approved the draft 2018 Appropriation Bill, paving the way for President Muhammadu Buhari to present the document to the National Assembly.

The approval was given at a meeting of the council presided over by Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udo Udoma, confirmed the approval to State House correspondents at the end of the meeting.

Udoma said the Executive would liaise with the National Assembly to agree on a date that the President would present the document to the lawmakers.

The minister refused to give the details of the approved draft budget.

He said, “It is the President’s prerogative to submit the budget, submit the proposals and give the details. I will be operating above my brief if I do that; the Constitution gives that authority to the President.

“We did promise that the budget would be ready in October and it would be ready in October. We are liaising with the National Assembly because they have to approve the date for the President to come and address them to submit the budget.”

When asked if it was still feasible for the budget to be passed this year, Udoma stated, “Before now, we used to submit the proposal in December; but now, the budget is ready in October, so there is a very big difference.”

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, said a total of N450bn had so far been released for capital projects in the 2017 budget.

Nation with additional report from Punch