Barely a week after helping to repatriate $311m stolen by the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha back to Nigeria, the United States says there is a separate $319m (N121bn) Abacha loot in the United Kingdom and France.
The US Embassy in Nigeria said in a statement on Wednesday that there is $167m in stolen assets in France while there is a separate $152m in the UK which is being challenged in court.
The statement read in part, “The funds returned last week are distinct and separate from an additional $167m in stolen assets also forfeited in the United Kingdom and France, as well as $152m still in active litigation in the United Kingdom.”
Bloomberg had reported that the repatriation of the $152m (now $155m due to interest) to Nigeria is being challenged by the UK and the US because of alleged plans by the Nigerian government to give $110m out of the money to Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu, a known associate of the late Abacha.
Nigeria is seeking the approval of a UK court to take ownership of the assets before returning 70 percent of the proceeds to Bagudu under the terms of a 2018 deal, according to Bloomberg.
Nigeria’s Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami (SAN), has, however, denied ever entering a deal with Bagudu but court papers say otherwise.
The UK government’s National Crime Agency is also “opposing the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s application,” according to a motion filed by Bagudu’s brother, Ibrahim, to the District Court for the District of Columbia in the US capital on March 30.
The US Department of Justice said in February that its Nigerian counterpart is hindering its efforts to recover the allegedly laundered money from the UK.
Bagudu was part of a network controlled by Abacha that “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria,” according to the US Department of Justice.
While successive Nigerian governments have repatriated billions of dollars looted by Abacha, who died in office in 1998, the current regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), said it is prevented from assisting America’s ongoing forfeiture efforts by an agreement between Bagudu and a previous government in 2003.
Recall that just this Monday the government of US had returned $312 million seized from Nigeria’s former dictator Sani Abacha
The loot ($311,797,866) which was received by the Nigerian government was repatriated from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey after a recent agreement where the Nigeria agreed to “replace” the $300m General Sani Abacha loot returned to the country if the fund was misused.
According to the U.S. Justice Department, the money must be used for the agreed public projects highlighted in the agreement signed with it before the fund was returned to Nigeria.
“Should any of the parties — including the United States —conclude that any of the returned funds had been used for an ineligible expenditure, a “claw-back” provision would then obligate the FRN (Nigeria) to replace fully any such improperly diverted monies,” the letter said.
Transparency International estimates that Abacha stole as much as $5bn of Nigeria public funds during his tenure.