Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has described as untrue and baseless the report that the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration is planning to release the sum of $100m from the recovered Abacha loot to the Governor of Kebbi state, Atiku Bagudu.
A statement by Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, his Special Assistant on Media, described Buhari as the first President of Nigeria committed to the battle and does not plan to deviate “despite statements in the media.”
Malami said the long-standing cooperation recently culminated in the successful signing of Memorandum of Understanding for the repatriation of over $308 million.
“The FGN is also negotiating the recovery of assets from several countries and the agreements for the recoveries and the procedure for recoveries are always presented to Federal Executive Council for approval and duly made public once the processes have been concluded.
“No third-party interest was captured in the Council memo that was approved by the Council”, Malami declared
“Nigeria is also cooperating with the United States in the recovery of several other assets including corruption proceeds linked to former Petroleum Minister Deziani Alison-Madueke and her associates, and former State Governor James Ibori as well as several others.”
The statement assured that Buhari remained committed to the recovery of whatever funds are owed Nigeria and the government, in that regard, has gone to court in different countries to assert its rights as victim of corruption.
“The Bagudu family assets in contention, which constitutes a distinct and separate cause of action, does not have anything to do with the assets already recovered and being recovered under the Abacha 2014 non-prosecution agreement.
Recall that the US government had expressed disappointment over reports that the federal government was planning to give out the said sum to Bagudu.
The U.S. Department of Justice accused Bagudu of being involved in corruption with Abacha. The DoJ also contends that the Nigerian government is hindering U.S. efforts to recover allegedly laundered money it said it has traced to Bagudu.
“This case illustrates how complex and contentious repatriating stolen assets to Nigeria can be,” said Matthew Page, an associate fellow at London-based Chatham House and former Nigeria expert for U.S. intelligence agencies. “Instead of welcoming U.S. efforts, Nigeria’s lawyers appear to be supporting the interests of one of the country’s most powerful families.”
In the case involving Bagudu, the U.S. in 2013 initiated a forfeiture action against a host of assets, including four investment portfolios held in London in trust for him and his family, according to the district court filings.
The DoJ said in a Feb. 3 statement that Bagudu, 58, was part of a network controlled by Abacha that “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria.” Bagudu is the chairman of an influential body of governors representing the ruling All Progressives Congress.
Under the terms of that accord, which was approved by a U.K. court, Bagudu returned $163 million of allegedly laundered money to the Nigerian authorities, which in exchange dropped all outstanding civil and criminal claims against him “stemming from his involvement in government corruption,” according to a Dec. 23 memorandum opinion by District Judge John D. Bates in Washington D.C.