John Ameh, Abuja
The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice on Thursday asked the Federal Government to follow the Memorandum of Understanding reached on the application of the $322.5m returned Abacha loot by ensuring that the money gets to the poor.
The group said the money must only be used to pay the monthly “N5,000 to the poorest of poor Nigerians” as stated in the MoU, which the Nigerian Government signed with the Swiss Government before the money was returned to Nigeria in 2017.
The Presidency formally began the disbursement of the money in October to states that enrolled in the programme.
The disbursement is done by the National Conditional Cash Transfer Office under the government’s Social Investment Programme and monitored by the World Bank.
The NCTO disburses the money using data generated by the National Safety-Net Coordinating Office under the supervision of the Office of the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
Speaking at a news conference in Abuja to launch the monitoring of the disbursement, the Executive Director of ANEEJ, David Ugolor, said the primary reason the Swiss government returned the money was that it would be used to touch the lives of the poor.
He said the international community and donor agencies had misgivings about how Nigeria utilised funds returned under similar circumstances in the past.
Ugolor recalled that during 2016 London Anti-corruption Summit and the December 2017 Global Forum on Asset Recovery in Washington, both Nigeria and Switzerland made commitments to spend the money on the poor and nothing else.
He said, “ANEEJ is monitoring the recovered $322.5m through transparency and accountability in the Recovery and Management of Looted Assets Project, which is being supported by the Department for International Development.
“ANEEJ is working with six partners drawn from the six geopolitical zones to monitor the use of the Abacha loot in the conditional cash transfer programme of the Federal Government.”
Ugolor stated that the aim was to track the money by scrutinising the register of beneficiaries and following the movement of the money from the Central Bank of Nigeria to the poor, so that “it is not re-looted as was the case with previously returned Abacha loot”.