17 January 2017, Sweetcrude, Abuja – The Federal Government has denied reports that the United States Government was blocking efforts to repatriate the $550 million loot belonging to former Head of State, General Sani Abacha, in its kitty.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, made the clarification in a chat with reporters in Abuja.
According to Malami, the delay in drawing down the huge amount was merely bureaucratic and did not amount to being blocked by the US.
Malami said that “The amount in question cannot be said to have been blocked on account of lack of cooperation between the US and Nigeria but largely on account of bureaucratic and judicial bottlenecks.”
He said Nigeria was still expectant and the bottlenecks would soon be cleared to pave the way for Nigeria to draw down the cash.
Some top officials of the current administration had last week raised an alarm that the US had blocked huge proceeds of corruption being trapped in that country and chided it for not helping Nigeria to repatriate the cash.
The Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, PACAC, Prof. Itse Sagay, last week said Nigeria risked losing another $550m recovered from late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha’s family to the United States.
He said, “Nigeria presently stands to lose another $550m recovered from the Abacha family to the US, contrary to the earlier promise by the U.S. to return same to Nigeria.”
Sagay said the amount represented a separate tranche from the earlier $480m forfeited to the US following a court judgment in August 2014, adding that the stringent conditions for repatriation being given by the countries in which some of the nation’s stolen wealth was stashed contradicted the earlier promises made.
He expressed concern at the country’s challenges in the tracing, seizure, forfeiture and return of Nigeria’s assets laundered outside the country.
Sagay explained that the challenges were due to stringent conditions and the other uncooperative attitude of the countries in possession of the stolen funds.
He said, “Out of the Abacha loot, for instance, Switzerland seized over $505.5m between 2004 and 2006. The UK recovered $2.7m from Alamieyeseigha’s account in London in 2005. Alamieyeseigha’s home and the other real estate as at 2005 was estimated at over $15m,” Sagay said.
It will be recalled that a US court had in September last year cleared the legal hurdle for Nigeria to repatriate $550 million Abacha loot, which had been delayed by a Nigerian lawyer’s claim of 40 percent legal fees.
But when the case came up for hearing, Justice John Bates of the US District Court dismissed it, thereby, paving the way for the return of the loot to Nigeria to help it rejig its plummeting economy battered by falling oil prices and corruption.