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Abacha loot: We still have more stolen funds in US – FG

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Federal government has called on the United States (US) government to return more Nigerian funds looted by public officials and stashed in banks in the country.

The minister of foreign affairs, Yusuf Tuggar, made the appeal in his remarks at the opening of the 6th session of the Nigeria-US Bi-National Commission in Abuja yesterday.

Tuggar, who was represented by the ministry’s permanent secretary, Adamu Lamuwa, stressed the need for increased support from the US to return stolen wealth, adding that the $308 million, said to be money looted by the late former Nigerian head of state, General Sani Abacha, was insufficient compared to Nigeria’s losses from illegal fund transfers over the years.

He said that the Nigeria government is committed to using these funds for the collective benefit of its citizens, in line with agreements with development partners.

He added that the funds would be channelled to infrastructure development, focusing on projects such as roads, schools, education, and other vital sectors requiring substantial investment.

Lamuwa said, “I would like to appreciate the fallout of the Democratic National Convention held in February 2020 in Washington, DC. The governments of Nigeria, the United States, and Jersey signed a tripartite agreement to return to Nigeria the sum of over $308 million of funds stolen from the country.

“I would also urge the U.S. to do more because $308 million is a meagre amount when you look at the resources that Nigeria has lost over the years due to illegal transfers of funds from the country.

“The Nigerian government has committed to using these funds for the benefit of all Nigerians, as agreed with development partners. These funds are aimed at developing infrastructure, particularly projects in roads, schools, education, and other sectors of the economy that require this substantial return.”

Lamuwa emphasised that the theme for this year, “Partnership for Mutual Benefit and Development,” held particular relevance and timeliness given the pressing need for such collaboration, adding that as two major democracies, bolstering ties between these nations holds promise for an even more robust partnership, fostering peace, prosperity, and advancement not only in Africa but globally.

The US deputy secretary of state, Kurt Campbell, in his remarks, said it was imperative that security cooperation in the Nigeria-US partnership be made paramount.

Campbell, who was represented by the assistant secretary for African affairs, Molly Phee, said without security, achieving prosperity would be difficult and warned that human rights were endangered, while underscoring the joint efforts aimed at tackling Nigeria’s multifaceted security challenges, including terrorism, banditry, and piracy, which pose significant threats to its population.

She said, “Security cooperation is another crucial aspect of our relationship. Without security, prosperity will be elusive and human rights threatened. Together, we are working to address the broad security challenges facing Nigeria, terrorism; banditry and piracy threaten its people.

“The US is committed to helping Nigeria build more capable, professional and accountable security forces while ensuring respect for human rights, and fundamental freedoms, including for religious minorities.”

On February 3 2020, the Government of Jersey, Nigeria and the U.S. government entered into an Asset Recovery Agreement to repatriate over $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 the name of the son of the former Head of State of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha.

The statement added, “General Abacha and his associates stole and laundered many hundreds of millions of dollars of public money during his military regime, doing vast harm to the futures of his people.

“The monies were laundered by his family, including his sons Ibrahim and Mohammed, and several close associates. The laundering operation extended to the United States and European jurisdictions such as the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Luxembourg.”

Also, on January 16 2024, a Royal Court in Jersey, Channel Islands, reportedly ruled that stolen assets worth £6.9m ($8.9m) be repatriated to Nigeria.

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