Ifeanyi Onuba, Abuja
The Federal Government on Tuesday confirmed the repatriation of the sum of $322.5m to Nigeria by the Swiss Government as part of funds looted by the late former military Head of State, Gen. Sanni Abacha.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, confirmed the release of the fund in a statement issued by her Media Adviser, Oluyinka Akintunde.
The minister said the money was paid to the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria on December 18, 2017.
Adeosun also denied blocking the payment of $16.9m fees to two lawyers, being payment for the recovery of the looted funds by the late head of state.
Media reports (not in The PUNCH) had alleged that the finance minister wrote a letter to President Muhammadu Buhari blocking the payment of the amount to the lawyers.
But Adeosun stated that there was no time she wrote any letter to the President or any member of the Federal Executive Council on the payment of the lawyers for the Abacha loot recovery.
The statement read in part, “The attention of the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, has been drawn to false media reports of a ‘strongly-worded letter to the President’ objecting to the payment of $16.9m fees to two lawyers for the recovery of Abacha funds.
“The minister wishes to dissociate herself and the Federal Ministry of Finance from recent malicious and misleading media reports on the Abacha refunds.
“The minister had at no time written any letter to the President or any member of the Federal Executive Council on the payment of lawyers for the Abacha recovery.
“She also refuted the flawed media reports of controversy surrounding the Abacha recovery, disclosing that the sum of $322,515,931.83 was received into a special account in the Central Bank of Nigeria on December 18, 2017 from the Swiss Government.
“For the avoidance of doubt, there is no controversy concerning the recovery of the Abacha monies from the Swiss Government.”
FEC had on November 1, 2017 approved a Memorandum of Understanding between Nigeria and Switzerland for the repatriation of $321m stolen funds to the country.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), had told State House correspondents at the end of a meeting of the council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari that he had been mandated to execute the agreement that would lead to the repatriation of the funds.
He had explained, “There exists a forum, that is Global Assets Recovery Forum, taking place in December in the US, and we are looking towards that. We are in agreement substantially with the Swiss Government for the recovery of additional sum of $321m.
“That Memorandum of Understanding has been substantially agreed between Nigeria and Switzerland. We intend to now execute or to sign off the agreement during the global forum on assets recovery coming up December.
“The intention of the memo is to seek the approval of the council to allow the attorney-general to sign the agreement on behalf of the government of the federation of Nigeria. Two, is to develop an instrument of ratification, which will now give the attorney general the powers to ensure the repatriation of the funds.”
Malami added, “It is collectively agreed upon between Nigeria and Switzerland that we on our part should seek the approval of the council to ratify the MoU as agreed; and they on their own part, procure the instrument of ratification that will now give the respective officers of the two countries the powers and effect to now sign off the agreement.
“The memo has accordingly been agreed and approved by the council. The implication of which is that the MoU as negotiated between Nigeria and Switzerland has been agreed and ratified by council and then the attorney general has been mandated to execute the agreement that will see to the repatriation of the $321m and added to it to develop the instrument of ratification that will be expected from both sides of the divide, which will constitute the basis for the signing of the agreement in December in US the during the global forum on assets recovery.”