Abuja, Nigeria. December 9, 2019… The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) calls on all stakeholders including government, civil society, development partners and citizens to be united in supporting the use of recovered assets in Nigeria to fund social investment programmes and other pro-poor initiatives.
As we mark World Anticorruption Day 2019, it is important to take stock of global and national anticorruption initiatives over the last year to enable us understand where there has been progress and document lessons learned. In line with this, and from our perspective as a civil society organisation, it is evident that the use of the recovered $322.5 million Abacha loot to fund the national cash transfers programme for the benefit of poor Nigerians provides a significant model for both anticorruption and development efforts going forward.
As you may recall the above sum of $322.5 million was returned to Nigeria by Switzerland in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding between both countries at the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) in December, 2017. Since then, ANEEJ has worked with a over 60 civil society organisations in all six geopolitical zones in Nigeria to monitor the use of the money at all levels from the Central Bank of Nigeria down to the poorest Nigerians who are the target beneficiaries.
Our monitoring exercise through the MANTRA project, which has deployed 1,150 field monitors and 124 supervisors over two rounds of monitoring in December 2018 and October 2019 reveals the impact of this model and the need to reiterate, sustain and augment same as Nigeria continues its struggle to address corruption and provide development to its largely poor citizens.
As at November 30 2019, about 967,545 households in 29 states in Nigeria are enrolled in the National Cash Transfer Programme to benefit from basic monthly cash transfers of 5,000 Naira from the Abacha funds. Our monitoring have reached 24 percent of paid beneficiaries in 20 States who are actually receiving these funds which is playing a significant role as a social safety-net for the poorest and most vulnerable citizens across the country. We can also confirm that about N12,660,120,000 out of the total sum of $322.5 million has been spent so far by the National Cash Transfer Office in funding this programme as at August 2019.
Whilst it is important to state these figures and also note the room for improvement in the implementation of this programme – for which we continue to work with the relevant agencies of government to achieve – it is of greater significance on the occasion of the marking of the World Anticorruption Day to reiterate the ramifications of this model.
Firstly, the use of recovered assets to fund pro-poor projects such as the National Cash Transfer Programme enhances anticorruption efforts by demonstrating palpable benefits of the fight against corruption to ordinary citizens. Today, as we went around with development partners, the media and other stakeholders to engage with beneficiaries of the programme, it was encouraging to see how the success of anticorruption efforts is providing palpable benefits to the most vulnerable people in our society. Demonstrating this connection is significant in galvanizing the goodwill and support of ordinary Nigerians for the all-important anticorruption agenda.
Secondly, this model has the potential of being central to Nigeria’s effort to address the serious challenge of poverty, which is one of the SDGs target. As we know, it is estimated that about 87 million people in Nigeria, representing about half of the population, live in extreme poverty. Without doubt, the greatest challenge of the leadership of the country is putting in place policies to urgently lift most of its citizens out of poverty. The use of recovered assets to fund pro-poor programmes can contribute significantly to this effort and therefore needs to be encouraged, institutionalised and sustained.
A recent World Bank study on social safety net programmes in Africa highlighted the need to scale such programmes through increased funding and a focus on addressing political, institutional and fiscal barriers to their effectiveness in combatting poverty. Mobilising resources for this purpose is obviously a challenge and the use of recovered loot for this purpose can achieve the dual objectives of demonstrating the practical benefits of the fight against corruption and also tackling the poverty challenge simultaneously.
Beyond this, there is also global support for this model. Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlights the importance of strengthening the recovery and return of stolen assets in efforts to achieve sustainable development by 2030. Article 57 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption further strengthens the case for taking into consideration the need to compensate victims of corruption in the return and disposal of recovered assts.
Hence, as we mark World Anticorruption Day 2019, we call on all stakeholders and citizens generally, to continue to support and work to augment efforts to use recovered assets to support social investment and similar pro-poor programmes. This will mobilise public support that will improve Nigeria’s anticorruption efforts whilst simultaneously addressing poverty and enhancing its drive to achieve the SDGs by 2030.
We are grateful to the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and other partners and stakeholders that continue to support our work and efforts to achieve a Nigeria, and an Africa without Poverty.
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 Monitoring of Recovered Assets in Nigeria through Transparency and Accountability (MANTRA) project is currently been implemented by ANEEJ. The project is part of the broader Anti-Corruption in Nigeria (ACORN)programme of DFID that aims to provide support over five year period to Nigerian authorities and civil society organisations to tackle corruption by reducing public tolerance and ensuring those who are corrupt are caught and punished.