Nigeria has found itself at the brink of losing its $550 million recovered from the Abacha family to the United States, correspondent learnt yesterday.
Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC) Chairman Itse Sagay, at a media conference on asset recovery and asset return in Abuja, said the government wanted an unconditional return of the country’s stolen wealth.
The media parley was jointly organised by PACAC and the Office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and the Diaspora.
“Nigeria presently stands to lose another 550 mllion dollars recovered from the Abacha family to the U.S., contrary to the earlier promise by the U.S. to return same to Nigeria,” Prof. Sagay said.
The money, he said represented a tranche from the 480 million dollars forfeited to the U.S. following a court judgment in August 2014.
Some countries, including the United States, have given stringent conditions for repatriation of stolen cash. This, said Sagay, contradicts their promises made.
Appealing to Nigerians in the Diaspora to step into the matter, Sagay said, “This is the time for Nigerians in the Diaspora and every friend of Nigeria to get involved in the advocacy to recover stolen assets, not just in words but in deed.
“We need no apologies from recipients of stolen assets. Our demand is the unconditional return of our stolen national patrimony.”
There are also challenges in tracing, seizure, forfeiture and return of Nigeria’s assets – no thanks to the stringent conditions and other uncooperative attitude of the countries in possession of the stolen funds.
“Out of the Abacha loot, for instance, Switzerland seized over 505.5 million dollars between 2004 and 2006.
“The UK recoverd 2.7 million dollars from Alamieyeseigha’s account in London in 2005
“Alamieyeseigha’s home and other real estate as at 2005 was estimated at over 15 million dollars.
“On the 6th of August, 2014, US District Judge, John D. Bates of the District of Columbia declared forfeited the sum of 480 million dollars from the money recovered from the Abacha’s family in the US,” he said.
According him, these funds are just a fraction of Nigeria’s stolen wealth which can be traced.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, called for the unconditional return of looted funds.
Mrs. Dabiri-Erewa , who said asset recovery was different from asset returning , decried the uncooperative attitude of the countries where stolen funds are stashed .
“America has over 400million dollars that have been officially recovered as stolen funds from Nigeria. But America is keeping the funds; they are telling us about technicalities. They are saying ‘we recovered doesn’t mean we can return’.
“We want every Nigerian in Disapora, friends of Nigeria, to join this committee in demanding that Nigeria’s stolen funds recovered in any part of the world should be returned to Nigeria,” she said.
According to her, the person who steals is just as guilty as the person who keeps stolen funds.
Said Mrs Dabiri-Erewa: “You can’t give us aid of a billion dollars, and keep a billion dollars of funds you have recovered from Nigeria.”