Economic development

Abacha’s LOOT; Govt sanctions, accountability, transparency and expenditure

Money plundered in the most reckless and irresponsible manner is a testament that corruption has in fact been the main reason for Nigeria’s misfortune. A setback which could have been avoided if foreign banks refused to partner with corrupt leaders. With the uncovered N3.2trillion Abacha’s loot in Jersey bank, channels Island making headlines, there is reason to question govt sanctions for perpetrators and, transparency and accountability of the recovered loot.

If I am not mistaken, the newly uncovered loot which has been currently seized by a British court should be about the third or fourth late Gen. Sani Abacha’s loot now making rounds. Mr Eric Mayoraz, The Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, who said Abacha’s loot of $722million in Switzerland was fully repatriated in 2005 and another hidden family money of $322.5million was returned to Nigeria in Dec. 2017. Also, the United States returned $480m in 2014, its largest forfeiture in history. Therefore, it is only fair to ask what happened to the first and second recovered loot. Seeing the magnitude of funds being repatriated to Nigeria, there must be clear accountability for the expenditure of such public money.

Without clear accountability for the previously recovered $722million and $480million, the $322.5million returned loot is said to be disbursed monthly through the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) to over 300,000 beneficiaries of N5,000 in 18 states who are on the National Social Register (NSR). The programme was also designed to train recipients from Internally Displaced Camps (IDPs) in Borno, Kogi,, Anambra, Oyo, Kwara, Bauchi, Benue, Taraba, Kano, Katsina, Gombe, Jigawa, Kaduna, Ekiti, Nasarrawa, Cross River and others on livelihood skills, social skills and other programmes that would change their lives entirely.

Out of the18 states receiving N5,000 monthly stipends from the loot, 11 of them are northern states. This realisation has been overly criticised by many, but the argument is that the poorest people are situated in the northern region of Nigeria. Also, economist have critiqued the N5,000 disbursements, saying cash transfer programs are ineffective ways of tackling poverty amongst the people. While some are of the opinion that it is a way of injecting money into the economy. Just as foreign countries use laundered confiscated funds to pay for various projects, I think funds in such magnitude should have been loaned to revive major manufacturing companies and given for infrastructural systems to boost the agricultural and health sectors.

President Buhari’s administration had promised to recover more stolen money and make payments of every last dollar to victims of corruption. Therefore, according to data collected from reputable media sources, the Federal Government has indeed commenced the disbursement of the recovered $322.5million from Switzerland, which was earmarked to be spent on the poorest of the poor Nigerians whose status were appraised and arrived at by the National Safety-Net Coordinating Office (NASSCO). For this reason, it is expected that every handling officer and monitoring organisation is open and fair.

As part of the indisputable terms of usage and modalities for the return of the money, the United Kingdom Agency for International Department (UKAID) sponsored programme has recently begun the monitoring of the Federal Government’s spending of $322.5million looted funds recovered from former Head of State, against allegations that the retuned Abacha loot was being used for political campaigns for the 2019 elections. The idea of supervision from the World Bank and foreign institutions is part of the agreement between the Swiss government and the Nigerian government to ensure that the local officials involved in the management of the repatriated funds utilise it for the benefit of the poor, downtrodden and underprivileged persons in Nigeria, and not to be used to foster political ambitions and manipulate election results or convert them into personal gains or foster corruption of any kind in the state, since it is marked for alleviating poverty in the country.

As alleged concerning the usage of the stolen funds, David Ugolor, The Executive Director of ANEEJ (The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice), at a three-day media workshop organised in abuja, commended the Nigerian government for its effective use of the $322.5 million in the Nov/Dec tranche of the Abacha loot repatriated from Switzerland. The civic group ED in February 2019 praised the office of the Vice President, National Social Safety Nets Coordinating Office (NASSCO), National Cash Transfer Office (NCTO) and Central Bank for allowing access and providing detailed data in a transparent manner that allowed for a painless monitoring process. According to Ugolor. after monitoring the 18 states and meeting with some of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) beneficiaries, he said he was impressed with the outcome so far. To him it was an unprecedented result in the history of this country. He however emphasised the challenges in the disbursement system and went on to say that there was room for improvement.

Regarding sanctions and justice, it is saddening to read that the already established $5billion stored secretly in foreign bank accounts by the late military dictator is just a portion of his loot, since fresh clues have indicated that more stolen funds still trapped in offshore accounts may far exceed N3.3trillion. Nigerians should confidently live knowing that the perpetrators of this horrific crime, those who heavily stole from our treasury to enrich their families at the expense of misery and extreme poverty of a vast majority will be tackled and brought to justice. It is a concern for impartiality, peace and genuine respect for current leaders.

Although Swiss banks “the godfather of banking secrecy” have over the course of time placed measures to ensure their institutions are not used to hide stolen funds from other countries, especially Nigeria, many groups have insisted that is it the FG’s responsibility to ensure criminals in the then financial systems have a fair judgment day since we are yet to hear or read of tough sanctions. Aggrieved Nigerians are asking for a comprehensive probe into the past, demanding a resort to international instruments to sanction international partners who aided in impoverishing the country and they have encouraged government collaborations to effectively and ceaselessly fight to recover Abacha’s remaining loot, which could have elevated the country from poverty if invested properly over 20 years ago. 

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