$150M Abacha Loot: A chance for Nigeria to demonstrate transparency in utilizing recovered assets – CSO warns
By Solomon Attah, Lafia.
Prior to the plan return of another tranche of $150 million General Sani Abacha loot, two civil society groups, the Transparency International (TI) in France and the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), said that, the return of the seized fund should be an opportunity for Nigeria Government to demonstrate utmost transparency in the utilization of the recovered assets.
The TI and CISLAC, who are more concern about the appropriate utilization of the funds, said the return of the recovered loot presents Nigeria a chance for existing legal framework that are mutually beneficial to the governments of France and Nigeria.
This was contained in a press statement signed by Auwal Rasfanjani, the Executive Director, CISLAC and Sara Brimbeuf, Head, Illicit Financial Flows Program, Transparency International, France, a copy which was to made available to the Newsmen on Friday, in Keffi, headquarters of Keffi Local Government Area of the state.
The France Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, Catherine Collonna, who recently paid President Bola Ahmed Tinubu visit at the State House, Abuja revealed that, France will be returning $150 million from General Sani Abacha loot and the seized funds will be returned in a form of grant.
According to Collonna, discussion will soon be open between the governments of the two countries on the areas to invest the funds.
The TI and CISLAC, in the statement urged Nigeria and France to do all it takes to ensure that the $150 million set to be returned by France is not misappropriated on the excuse of financing road infrastructure projects that previous returned looted funds have been earmarked to finance.
“As other returned funds confiscated in third countries have financed these same road infrastructures, several NGOs have warned of the risk of double financing and misappropriation of funds,” they warned.
According to the duo, France announced the upcoming return to Nigeria of the looted $150 million on November 3, 2023 through it’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also recently at the 10th Conference of the State Parties (CoSP) to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) at the United States of America (USA).
They also urged Nigeria and France to uphold Asset Recovery laws ahead of the return of the $150 million loot, so as to ensure transparency and accountability in the management and utilization of the funds.
“The upcoming restitution of US$150 million presents an excellent chance for France and Nigeria to implement the legal frameworks existing in their respective countries to ensure that the return process is transparent and accountable and includes civil society organisations.
“This is a chance for France to establish itself as a model for other destination countries wishing to return stolen assets and a chance for Nigeria to demonstrate that it is willing to be transparent about its management and utilisation of recovered assets,” they added.