$322.5million Abacha Loot Going to Poor Nigerians—CSOs Report

$322.5million Abacha Loot Going to Poor Nigerians—CSOs Report

Abuja, Nigeria. May 14, 2019….  Early findings from Independent Civil Society Organisations Monitoring the use of returned $322.5million Abacha Loot on Conditional Cash Transfer to Poorest of Poor Nigerians show that the money is largely going to poor Nigerians.

Executive Director of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Rev. David Ugolor at a Press Conference to present the findings of Civil Society Organisations to the Nigerian public in Abuja said in spite of some few challenges associated with the exercise, the monitoring carried out in December 2018 shows that the returned Abacha loot disbursed for August-September 2018 payment round was  received by target beneficiaries as confirmed by 78.8% of households visited by the monitoring team.

The field monitoring of the use of the returned Abacha loot is being carried out by Civil Society Organisations led by the (ANEEJ) under the Transparency and Accountability in the Recovery and Management of looted Assets (MANTRA) project being supported by UKAID under the Anti-Corruption in Nigeria (ACORN) programme.

Rev David Ugolor said a mixed method form of assessment was adopted as methodology for the exercise. “It reviewed data generated and the M&E systems on the data set. The monitoring exercise conducted spot checks on the Funds disbursed in the August to September payment round to 30,778 beneficiaries in 11 States across 5 Geo political zones of Nigeria. The exercise spanned two weeks and was conducted across reporting levels of the National Cash Transfer Office, their State and Local Government structures as well as the National Social Safety-Nets Coordinating Office with their States officials. Data were reviewed end-to-end from the Central Bank of Nigeria, World Bank, Conditional Cash Transfer progamme, and the National Beneficiary register.”

“We conducted our first monitoring exercise in December 2018, in conjunction with 6 regional CSO partners and 35 other CSOs across 5 geo-political zones. Over 500 monitors and 66 Supervisors were deployed for the exercise.

“Our findings show that a total of 974,478,000 million naira was released from the Abacha loot to the beneficiaries for payment in the August September Payment round as at the time of the monitoring exercise. The funds disbursed from the Abacha loot comprise 80% of the funds paid at the August September payment cycle. Data retrieved from the NCTO report that 33 million dollars (3, 786, 063,783 billion naira) was released for 6 months from the Abacha loot and converted at an exchange rate of 305.45 Naira to a dollar. Bank charges of 28,560 naira was deducted.

“We are pleased to inform you that Enrollees reported receiving at least the base amount 5000 naira. 78.8% of respondents reported receiving at least the base amount 5000 naira while 20.4% of respondents had not been paid as at the time of our visit,” Rev David Ugolor said.

He further revealed that their findings on grievances or feedback from beneficiaries revealed 29,722 (96.4%) of beneficiaries were satisfied with the grievance redress process. But, however, noted that grievances in the programme appears underreported as the Local Government Area level team reported delays in the feedback timeline from National Cash Transfer Office and The State Cash Transfer Office on grievances reported. “Interestingly too, a software application is been designed to address these challenges,” Ugolor disclosed.

The CSOs while noting a couple of challenges to the scheme identified in the course of the monitoring exercise reeled out seven recommendation to address them:

First was the need to design a mechanism or unified template for reporting at State, LGA and Ward level on total individuals and total funds paid in the programme at each payment round, as the present reporting is done in different ways by participating States. We recommend timeliness of information for beneficiaries, particularly, when names have to be dropped from the eligible beneficiaries list.

“The payment process was also noted to sometimes occur late at night at certain sites. Understandably, some of the beneficiaries live in very difficult to reach terrain, we recommended that effort should be made to reach them early in the day.

The CSOs also recommended a review of the payment option for beneficiaries to include electronic transfers.

Also, given that beneficiaries households are marked, ANEEJ and its CSOs partners noted that such a practice violates confidentiality standards, and recommended that the Federal Government should consider discontinuing this practice.

They equally called on the Federal Government to ensure that the remaining portion of the returned Abacha loot are shared to all other states not yet benefiting from the recovered loot as their advocacy visits to such states showed readiness and willingness of affected states to comply with laid down guidelines for them to join the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme.

The group credited its  success in the monitoring exercise to  the cooperation of the Federal Government as represented by the Federal Ministry of Justice, the National Social Investment Programme (NISP) through the National Cash Transfer Office (NCTO) and the National Social Safety Net Coordinating Office (NASSCO), noting that the Federal Government  has so far  demonstrated high level of transparency in disclosure and dealing with Civil Society in line with the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) principles and commitments and urged its sustenance, assuring that the monitoring exercise will continue in weeks and months ahead.

It will be recalled that Nigeria has had successes in asset recovery efforts with the successful repatriation of $505.5 million of the Abacha loot from Switzerland to Nigeria in 2005 and 2006. The Swiss MOU with Nigeria at that time mandated that recovered assets be spent on MDGs based interventions and this was said to have been spent on 5 sectors (Health, Education, Water, Electricity and Roads).  It was also monitored by CSOs in Nigeria led by ANEEJ under the auspices of the World Bank and the Federal Ministry of Finance. ANEEJ-led CSOs findings at that time revealed that the money was largely re-looted!  Subsequent recoveries suffered same fate until the return of the $322.5million Abacha 2 from Switzerland in 2017.

Today in Abuja, the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) organised an important national dialogue ahead of the Open Government Partnership, OGP Global Summit. ANEEJ is hosting this event as part of the implementation of her Monitoring the Use of Recovered Assets in Nigeria through Transparency and Accountability (MANTRA) project.

Cross-Section of participants at the ANEEJ Pre-OGP Summit National Dialogue in Abuja today.
Hajia Mariam Uwais, Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment Programme respond to participant’s questions at the ANEEJ Pre-OGP Summit.
ANEEJ EXecutive Director talks to Press men at the Pre-OGP Summit in Abuja.

Click link below to get full details of ANEEJ Executive Director, Rev. David Ugolor’s welcome address: