$321m Abacha loot: Govt sends plans to Switzerland

In line with Switzerland’s request, the Federal Government has submitted five proposals on how it will spend the $132million Abacha loot if returned.

Switzerland had asked for how the cash would be spent before releasing it.

The proposals are based on social benefit projects to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians.

The government is, however, weighing options on another condition bordering on the payment of monitoring fees to the World Bank on five projects.

To cut cost, the government is thinking of reducing the projects to two for the World Bank to monitor.

If the $321million loot is released, the amount to be repatriated to Nigeria by the Swiss authorities will amount to $1.044billion in 11 years.

Switzerland has released $723million to the country in the last 10 years.

But, a matter before a court by a Nigerian lawyer based in the United States (U.S.) has stalled the return of $480 million by the American government.

But both the U.S. and the Federal Government are collaborating to overcome the legal hurdles at the appeal court.

Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mallam Abubakar Malami (SAN)  told our correspondent that the government was trying to meet the terms of Switzerland.

Malami said: “We got a request from Switzerland that we should provide a list of projects that we will spend the $321million on.

“The government has done its homework and submitted five proposals that have bearing with social benefit projects.

“Some of the projects have been captured in this year’s budget. They will impact on all Nigerians.

“They wrote back to us on the fact that they will want the World Bank to be directly involved in the monitoring of the projects with a caveat that we have to pay monitoring fees.

“We have not come to terms with paying monitoring fees for all the projects. We have not taken any decision to pay the bills for all the projects or to restrict the payment to two of the projects,

“We are already collaborating with World Bank on three projects which will accelerate the nation’s development.”

Last March, Nigeria and Switzerland signed an agreement on the return of the $321million.

The pact, titled: “Letter of Intent on the restitution of illegally-acquired assets forfeited in Switzerland,” was signed by Malami, and the Swiss Head of Foreign Affairs Department, Didier Burkhalter. The document revealed that $321 million acquired illicitly by the Abacha family, was initially deposited in Luxemburg before being confiscated by the Swiss Republic Judiciary and Canton of Geneva following a December 11, 2014 forfeiture order.

On the $480 million Abacha loot in the U.S., Malami said it was yet to be repatriated because a Nigerian lawyer in America was impeding its return.

The minister said: “For the US, the only impediment is a Nigerian lawyer who has been constituting a threat to the repatriation of the funds.

“He has filed many court processes in the past few years demanding 40 per cent of the amount involved. He relied on a purported court injunction granted him in the last 14 years. Over the period of 10 years, the matter had gone through processes.

“At a point, he did not even have licence to operate in the US. His filings have been of concern to the US and the Federal Government.

“We are looking at the possibility of concluding the process at a Court of Appeal in the US.”

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