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Nigeria, Switzerland, World Bank sign tripartite MOU to return stolen $321m

Nigeria will soon receive $321m stolen and stacked in foreign bank account by a former Head of State, the late Gen Sani Abacha as soon as a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed on Tuesday by the Federal Government, Switzerland and the World Bank takes effect.

A statement by the Special Adviser to the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice on Media and Publicity, Comrade Salihu Othman Isah, said that the AGF, Abubakar Malami (SAN) signed the MOU on behalf of the federal government.

The Director of the Directorate of International Law, Ambassador Roberto Balzaretti, who doubles as Head of the Swiss delegation to the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) signed on behalf of the government of Switzerland while the Country Director of the World Bank office in Abuja, Mr. Rachid Benmessaoud signed on behalf the World Bank

The modalities for the return of the stolen funds were set out in the MOU which the three parties signed at the (GFAR) currently ongoing in the United States and were in consonance with Switzerland’s policy of returning illegally acquired assets.

The statement reads in part, “The MOU stipulates that the restitution of funds will take place within the framework of a project known as the National Social Investment Program that will strengthen social security for the poor in Nigeria.

“The MOU also regulates the disbursement of restituted funds in tranches and sets out concrete measures to be taken in the event of misuse or corruption.

“The chosen solution for restitution is being undertaken by the three contracting parties as a partnership” in line with the objectives of Switzerland’s strategy to freeze, confiscate and return the illicitly acquired assets of politically exposed persons (asset recovery) which is based on the principles of transparency and accountability.

“It also allows the involvement of civil society in the monitoring of the restitution process. Furthermore, the return of these funds makes a concrete contribution to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and can set a good example internationally for future restitution cases.”

These assets, which were initially frozen in Luxembourg, were repatriated and confiscated by Switzerland as part of criminal proceedings brought by the public prosecutor’s office of Geneva against Abba Abacha in December, 2014.

The signing of this MOU gives Nigeria visibility and will set precedence on the need for transparent management of returned assets internationally.

The GFAR brought together experts from the field of asset recovery to strengthen international cooperation in this area.

Nigeria will also use the opportunity of the GFAR meeting at the headquarters of the International Finance Corporation in Washington DC to negotiate the return of other assets and also engage in bilateral meetings with several other countries.

Nigerian delegation to the meeting comprised the Head of delegation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, Mrs Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu, Special Assistant to the President on Justice Reform and Coordinator, Open Government Partnership (OGP) and Mrs. Ladidi Abdulkadir, Nigeria/GFAR Focal Person and Assistant Director, Federal Ministry of Justice among others as well as civil society organizations represented by Reverend David Ugolor, Executive Director, African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ).

The members of Nigeria delegation are expected to return to Nigeria tomorrow.

Andrew Orolua, Abuja.

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