“Deziani Recovered Loot”? Need for a Framework and Citizen Engagement, By Otive Igbuzor
Civil Society organisations have been consistent in demanding for “a framework to ensure that repatriated funds are spent on visible projects and programmes that would be appreciated by all Nigerians to serve as a disincentive to looting of public treasury.”
In May 2015, General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.) was sworn in as president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. One of his main focus has been to fight corruption and recover monies and property that were looted by previous office holders. It has been well documented that during his reign General Sanni Abacha stole a lot of money from the treasury, as much as £5 billion. A part of this loot has been discovered and returned to Nigeria. By March 2016, Switzerland had returned $723 million to the Nigeria government. There have been serious concerns that the recovered Abacha loot was again looted by previous governments.
The President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) administration has been focused on recovering loot from former public officers. In June, 2016, the Federal Ministry of Information gave details of successfully recovered loot from the administration totaling cash amounts of N78,325,354,631.82, $185,119,584.61, £3,508,355.46 and €11,250 between May 29, 2015 and May 25, 2016. Also released were recoveries under interim forfeiture, which were a combination of cash and asset, during the same period, amounting to: N126,563,481,095.43, $9,090,243,920.15, £2,484,447.55 and €303,399.17. In addition, there are the anticipated repatriations from foreign countries totalling: $321,316,726.1, £6,900,000 and €11,826.11. The ministry also announced that 239 non-cash recoveries were made during the one-year period. The non-cash recoveries comprise farmlands, plots of land, uncompleted buildings, completed buildings, vehicles and maritime vessels.
Only last week, on Friday January 6, 2017, a Federal High Court in Lagos, with Justice Muslim Hassan presiding, ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of $153,310,000 which a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke, allegedly siphoned from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and stashed in three banks in the country.
These developments call for action on the part of government and citizens. In its review of the utilisation of Abacha loot, the World Bank found a lot of anomalies and recommended that a mechanism should be put in place to demonstrate that returned funds are used to the benefit ordinary citizens. Civil Society organisations have been consistent in demanding for “a framework to ensure that repatriated funds are spent on visible projects and programmes that would be appreciated by all Nigerians to serve as a disincentive to looting of public treasury.”
This is the time to act by citizens and government to make sure that recovered loot are not re-looted!
Otive Igbuzor is Director at African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development (Centre LSD).