The United States Government has opposed plans by the Federal Government; to hand about $100 million that was reportedly looted by the deceased dictator, Sani Abacha to the Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Bagudu.
This refusal to hand over the loot to Bagudu may hinder future cooperation; between the two nations to recover state money moved offshore by Abacha.
Transparency International estimates Abacha may have looted as much as $5 billion during his 1993-98 rule.
The U.S. Department of Justice says Bagudu was also involved in corruption with Abacha. The DoJ also contends that the Nigerian government is hindering U.S. efforts to recover allegedly laundered money it says it’s traced to Bagudu.
Buhari’s administration says a 17-year-old agreement entitles Bagudu to the funds as well as prevents Nigeria from assisting the U.S.; according to recent filings from the District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington.
“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 as well as 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 also his family, according to the district court filings.
The DoJ said in a Feb. 3 statement that Bagudu was part of a network controlled by Abacha that “embezzled, misappropriated and also extorted billions from the government of Nigeria.”
Bagudu, meanwhile, 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 as well as criminal claims against him “stemming from his involvement in government corruption.”
This is according to a Dec. 23 memorandum opinion by District Judge John D. Bates in Washington D.C.
After Bagudu successfully sued Nigeria for violating the 2003 settlement; the government reached a new agreement with him in October 2018, according to the court filings.