Concerns Over Alleged New Looting of Over $ 1.5 Billion In Abacha Loot | The Guardian Nigeria News
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Economists, legal practitioners as well as other professionals and civil society organizations have expressed concerns about the mismanagement of looted funds returned, in particular the money stolen by the former head of state, the general Sani Abacha.
Disturbed by the growing wave of corruption across the country, despite the much-talked-about anti-corruption campaign of the current administration, experts are further stung by reports that the returned loot has been looted again, from especially since financial transactions have remained opaque, lacking in transparency and accountability.
This growing fear, perhaps, recently forced the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, to ask the federal government to explain to Nigerians how much of the country’s looted funds it has so far recovered.
As the federal and Delta state governments continue to fight against the returned £ 4.2million stolen by former Governor James Onanefe Ibori, experts have stressed there is every reason to return the money stolen from the state in the spirit of true federalism.
It was as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said last Friday that the value of jewelry seized from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, stood at around N14.460b, while the Panel special presidential investigation had accused the top government. those responsible for embezzling $ 69 billion (about N 28.3 billion) allegedly hidden in Texas bank accounts as a result of illegal oil deals by suspicious officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
Last month, the federal government said it was unclear how much money was actually stolen from under Abacha and how much was recovered. Up to $ 5 billion was reportedly stolen by the deceased chef alone.
The funds, mostly from oil and gas, flowing out of the country as Illicit Financial Flows (IFFs) hover around N 103t over the past 15 years, The Guardian previously reported.
From 2007 to 2020, around $ 1.5 billion was returned to Nigeria from different parts of the world. In addition, between 2007 and 2018, Switzerland returned over $ 1 billion to the Nigerian government, and in June 2014, Liechtenstein sent $ 277 million to Nigeria.
In May 2020, $ 308 million held in accounts based on the Channel Island of Jersey was sent to Nigeria. The monies returned brought the total Abacha loot returned to $ 1.5 billion.
As staggering revelations continue to emerge on a daily basis about the extent to which public officials plunder the treasury, most stakeholders are emptied of the lack of accountability and the blatant lack of transparency regarding loot recovered abroad despite demanding conditions. appropriate use / application of these funds. .
It should be remembered that although most states get rescue funds from the loot returned, they have always fought to pay the wages.
It is instructive to point out that the condition for the return of Switzerland’s last batch of money was that the money be used for the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan Highway and the Abuja-Kano Highway. But the current state of the projects, most stakeholders agree, does not justify the money being spent wisely. This development, say most experts, calls into question the sincerity of the war on corruption waged by the administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Federal Ministry of Works and Housing Director, Media and Public Relations, Oyeboade Akinola, did not respond to calls and messages from The Guardian about the amount spent so far on the returned loot projects. Ditto for the spokesperson for the Minister of Public Works and Housing, Hakeem Bello, who also did not respond to his calls and messages on this subject.
At the Ministry of Finance, Nwodo Charles, the spokesperson for the ministry said he needed time to obtain specific information on the matter.
On the status of projects where part of the fund was to be spent, The Guardian reported that the federal government had so far released a total of N116.72b for the highly politicized second bridge in Niger, a project valued at N414b, and should be delivered next year.
While Public Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Raji Fashola said earlier that the Lagos-Ibadan highway will be completed by December 2021, some stakeholders note that reaching the target may be elusive given of the current state of the road, just as the conclusion of the Abuja-Kano highway has remained elusive.
While the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) revealed that 703,506 poor and vulnerable Nigerians, out of a registered figure of 834, 948 targeted in the Nigerian social register received a total of 23.742 billion naira on Abacha’s booty recovered of $ 322.5 million. Switzerland on December 31, 2019, as part of the conditional cash transfer of the social investment program (SIP), the SIP had been attacked, in particular for lack of transparency and accountability.
Lead Partner – Nextier Advisory, Patrick Okigbo told The Guardian that the new looting of returned looted funds could continue to flourish due to fundamental issues, including bad principles.
With the government having a wealth of information more than the masses about corruption, and failing to voluntarily equip the public with it, Okigbo said the new looting of returned looted funds would continue.
“For years academics have thought of corruption to be a principal-agent problem, which has informed various anti-corruption initiatives. But if a “principle director” is in charge, he will ensure that agents (politicians, bureaucrats, private sector) stay on the right track. Pay higher wages and agents will be less corrupt. Whistle the blowers and the corruption will stop. Reduce the discretion of politicians and bureaucrats over decisions and limit their powers. Increase the cost of the sentence and most will avoid the crime. Governments have tried all of the above with marginal impact on corruption. In fact, in some cases corruption has increased, ”he noted.
According to him, the excitement of the new and young anti-corruption czar will wane very soon when it becomes clear that he is rowing against the tide, not for lack of intention, but because he is using the wrong tools to drive out the stupid.
Okigbo, who argued that a strong system was needed, especially one that would ensure the independence of the judiciary, added that Nigeria could get worse with corruption.
“My point is that the way we are doing now is not going to solve the problem. It might even make the problem worse because the more we talk about the billions that people steal, the scientific evidence shows that everyone then starts to believe that everyone is corrupt, and when they believe that everyone is corrupt, no one will. wants to be a fool. So they also get involved, ”he said.
For the former president of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) and professor of economics at Babcock University, Segun Ajibola, the federal government must explain to Nigerians how the looted funds were spent.
Ajibola noted that while some trust the administration to have spent the returned loot wisely, providing further explanation on the matter would determine whether the funds were best used.
And for the lawyer, Madaki Ameh, the general perception of Nigerians, which seems well founded, remains that the returned funds are regularly looted by government officials in the current administration.
“This is due to the opaque nature of collections to date and a clear lack of accountability over the use of recovered funds. Without such transparency and a clear consequence attached to impunity, the practice will continue, ”Ameh said.
The director of the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD), Idayat Hassan, said the opacity and lack of transparency had succeeded in obscuring the use of the loot recovered.
In her view, when it comes to actual recovery and asset recovery tracking, much needs to be done for citizens to be able to determine where funds are channeled or spent.
“Apart from the three big projects, what happened to the other funds? What exactly were they used for and is the government presenting it to citizens? How does the government communicate it to citizens? I think these are the fundamental issues, ”she said.
She added that corruption has become even more technical, diverse and relentless under the current administration.
The pro-tem president of the Chartered Institute of Forensic Pathologists and Investigators of Nigeria (CIFIPN), Dr Enape Victoria Ayishetu told the Guardian that she had honored the presidency’s invitation regarding the repatriated loot and recommended the best way to spend the funds.
Ayishetu noted that the federal government was advised to spend the money through the budgeting process to ensure transparency and accountability, but the advice was ignored.
“We can only advise or recommend options that will ensure wise use, we cannot force the government to decide. We made our presentation and our recommendation, that’s the best we can do, ”she said.
Ayishetu noted that it was not surprising that corruption continues to flourish in the country despite the anti-corruption war, stressing that the country would not win the fight without the right mechanism.
She said: “The fight against corruption cannot be successful without the necessary tools. There is corruption all over the world, the only thing that differs is the mechanism people have used to fight or prevent it. Without forensic investigation, we cannot win the war. ”
She said a bill to entrench forensic investigations is facing obstacles in the country, adding that the growing level of corruption in the country is responsible for the level of hardship and insecurity. She insisted that sentiment has bogged down the fight against corruption in the country, forcing the war back instead of signifying progress.
The Center for Transparency Advocacy (CTA) alleged that the returned loot was misappropriated and not properly used. Its executive director, Faith Nwadishi, said the money was being used for things not intended, adding that it was difficult to track how the government is spending the money.
This development, she said, has compromised accountability, transparency and deprived citizens of the right to information about how money is spent.
“The corruption has worsened. Policies are only on paper and are never implemented. This administration’s second term is even worse. It’s business as usual. We have to make people account for what is going on. The NDCC probe went under the carpet. The oversight role of the National Assembly is also compromised, ”Nwadishi said.