Benin City, Nigeria. February 6, 2020… Following the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between Nigeria, Jersey and United States of America Governments yesterday on the repatriation of over $308million Abacha Loot 3, the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ)-led Civil Society Organisations operating under the aegis of the Monitoring Transparency and Accountability (MANTRA) project are set to monitor the use of the loot when returned to Nigeria.
Executive Director of ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor made the disclosure in Benin City at a press conference to brief the media practitioners on the progress made by the MANTRA project, lauding the Federal Government for providing a framework for the monitoring of Abacha 3 project earmarked for some capital projects in the country. The projects are: Lagos – Ibadan expressway, Abuja – Kano express way and the second Niger bridge.
“Following the Federal Government’s invitation to ANEEJ and its MANTRA team, we are set to monitor end-to-end the planned return of another $308million Abacha loot from Jersey for which an MoU between the Nigeria, Jersey and the US Governments have been signed. We have trained Civil Society actors drawn from all parts of Nigeria and we are fully prepared to engage the process,” Rev Ugolor assured.
It would be recalled that on Monday, 3 February 2020, the Government of Jersey, the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Government of the United States of America entered into an Asset Recovery Agreement to repatriate over US$308 million of forfeited assets to Nigeria.
The funds were laundered through the US banking system and then held in bank accounts in Jersey in the name of Doraville Properties Corporation, a BVI company, and in the name of the son of the former Head of State of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha. In 2014 a U.S. Federal Court in Washington DC forfeited the money as property involved in the illicit laundering of the proceeds of corruption arising in Nigeria during the period from 1993 to 1998 when General Abacha was Head of State.
“We are glad to note that under the arrangement, the Federal Government will establish a Monitoring Team to oversee the implementation of the projects and to report regularly on progress and that the Nigerian government, in consultation with the other Parties, will also engage Civil Society Organisations, who have expertise in substantial infrastructure projects, civil engineering, anti-corruption compliance, anti-human trafficking compliance, and procurement to provide additional monitoring and oversight. This, for us is an important part of the MoU.”
Rev Ugolor commended the US, UK and Federal Government for sustaining the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) commitment by ensuring the return of Abacha 3 from Jersey Islands.
The ANEEJ Executive Director also announced the receipt of the preliminary field monitoring report for which over 700 monitors were deployed nationwide for the second-round monitoring of the returned Abacha loot which spanned October to December, 2019.
“The preliminary report of our second-round field monitoring exercise shows that the number of states benefiting from the returned Abacha loot has increased from 11 states in our first round of monitoring to 29 states.
“At the moment, we cannot lay claim to what happened upstream. The Federal Government has agreed that we validate our data upstream. So, we have engaged an audit firm to monitor the upstream disbursements of the $322.5million Abacha Loot 2 which is being channeled to Cash Transfer Programme for the poorest of the poor under the Nigeria Social Investment Programme. We need to compare data obtained at the downstream with what happened at the Central Bank and the private companies engaged by the Federal Government to make the disbursements, at the end of the upstream monitoring, we would be in a position to present our detailed report of the second monitoring exercise to members of the public ,” Ugolor assured.
Fielding questions on the return of Chief James Ibori loot to Delta State and Late Diepriye Alamiyeseigha loot to Bayelsa State, Rev Ugolor said ANEEJ is engaging the Federal Government and the respective State Governments as well as other stakeholders to ensure that the loots are returned to the respective states. We are supporting the Asset Recovery and Management Unit (ARMU) of the Federal Government under the MANTRA project, being supported by DFID Nigeria.
He noted that there is a similar unit in Brazil, particularly in a country such as ours which has no legislation such as the Proceeds of Crime Act. “We are supporting ARMU technically and we have signed an MoU with them and we look forward to a robust engagement.
“We call on the federal Government to work with the current National Assembly to pass the Proceeds of Crime Bill into law. Government should carry all stakeholders along this time around to avoid the last experience where POCA Bill was passed but not assented to by Mr President,” Ugolor urged.
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