In view of the disclosure by the Presidency on Tuesday, May 5; that part of the $311 million ‘Abacha loot’ returned from the United States will be invested in the Mambilla Power Project and the war against COVID-19, 1st News can report that these items were not part of the initial trilateral agreement with the governments of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (Nigeria), the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey (Jersey).
Malam Garba Shehu, the President’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity; had revealed that part of the Abacha loot would be deployed into the ongoing fight against COVID-19 in the country.
Also, he had expressed optimism that the Mambilla power project when completed; would provide electricity to some three million homes or over 10 million citizens in the country.
“Part of the funds will also be invested in the Mambilla Power Project which; when completed, will provide electricity to some three million homes – over ten million citizens – in our country.
”Without these funds, the fight against COVID-19 would be even tougher,” he stated.
However, the Mambilla Power Project and COVID-19 palliatives were not among the items listed in the initial trilateral agreement signed with the US Government. A statement released by the US Department of Justice on Monday, February 3, 2020; a copy of which was sighted by 1st News, clearly identifies three key projects included in the agreement.
”Under the trilateral agreement signed today, the United States and Jersey will transfer 100 percent of the net forfeited assets to the Federal Republic of Nigeria to support three critical infrastructure projects in Nigeria that were previously authorized by Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian legislature.
”Specifically, the laundered funds under this agreement will help finance the construction of the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and the Abuja-Kano road – investments that will benefit the citizens of each of these important regions in Nigeria,” the statement read in part.
Back in 2014, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates for the District of Columbia had entered judgment forfeiting approximately $500 million located in accounts around the world. This was based on a civil forfeiture complaint filed by US Department of Justice against more than $625 million traceable to monies looted by Abacha.
After appeals in the United States were exhausted in 2018; the government of Jersey enforced the U.S. judgment against over $308 million located in that jurisdiction.
“General Abacha and his cronies robbed Nigerians of vast public resources and abused the U.S. and international financial systems to launder their criminal proceeds,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“This landmark agreement returns to the people of Nigeria hundreds of millions of the embezzled monies through a lawful process that ensures transparency and accountability.”
The forfeited assets represent corrupt monies laundered during and after the military regime of General Abacha; who assumed the office of the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through a military coup on Nov. 17, 1993. Consequently, he held that position until his death on June 8, 1998.
Speculations are still ongoing by political analysts whether this breach will affect the overall process of any future repatriation.