The Nigerian Government has resisted an attempt by United States lawmaker, Senator Chuck Grassley who is the highest ranking senator in the US, to block the recuperation of $320m loot by the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.
Grassley, had asked the Department of Justice why the US was returning $320m funds to Nigeria irrespective of their high volume of human rights violation by the government of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.).
The US senator who you relate with President Donald Trump, wondered why the US should help Nigeria to repatriate Abacha loot when it was clear that the next tranche from the United Kingdom would be given to Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State, supposed accomplice of Abacha.
A letter dated April 1, 2020, was addressed to Deborah Connor, the Chief Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section of the DOJ, Grassley made reference to a Bloomberg report which exposed Nigeria’s arrangement with Atiku.
The letter read in part, “In 2014, the Isle of Jersey, a British dependency seized more than $320m laundered by the corrupt former dictator of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha. After a long legal battle, the Isle of Jersey and the United States have entered into an agreement to repatriate this money back to Nigeria in the coming months.
“Yet, according to a recent Bloomberg article, the current Nigerian government is refusing to help the US Department of Justice finalise a second forfeiture action against a separate $100m in Abacha loot.
“In addition to this lack of cooperation, if Nigeria did receive the second batch of funds, it intends to return the money to an official who DOJ says was involved in corruption with Abacha.”
Grassley, who is the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Buhari’s government also perpetrated the abuse of human rights.
The senator said, “There are also serious human rights concerns. Under President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, Nigerians face violations undermining freedom of religion, freedom of speech, due process, and the rule of law.
“In late December, the US State Department labelled Nigeria as a severe violator of religious freedom.
“The Buhari government’s own agencies have also abused the civil liberties of innocent Nigerian citizens. Last December’s re-arrest and detention of a US green card-holding journalist is just the latest high profile example.
“The re-arrest and detainment of New Jersey resident, Omoyele Sowore, just one day after he was released by a judicial court, is a clear testament to its glaring contempt of judicial opinion and the rule of law. Mr Sowore, an activist journalist and former political opponent of President Buhari, is still being detained, a blatant transgression of international norms.”
Grassley also lambasted the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), and the Chairman, Economic Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, accusing them of being agents of oppression of Buhari’s political opponents.
Meanwhile, the AGF made a statement through his spokesman, Umar Gwandu, that the said accusations were groundless.
The statement read in part, “The evidence on the ground establishes that the Federal Government’s operations in the fight against corruption are carried out without fear or favour that no political party is spared in view of any numerical data recorded in the judiciary conviction.
At the same time, the Federal Government says it has not entered into any agreement to conceding over $300m to be repatriated to Nigeria from Island of New Jessy.
Abubakar Malami (SAN), Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice in a statement by his media aide, Gwandu said that the Federal Government was exclusively bound by the tripartite agreement.
Malami said the international community developed confidence in this present administration for the fact that looted funds recovered by the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd.) were judiciously utilised for high-impact public oriented projects which was used for Abuja-Kano and Lagos-Ibadan Express way, and the 2nd Niger Bridge.
And that the country cannot use mapped out money for a project for another project not mentioned in the agreement.