SERAP Writes Trump, Demands Return Of Nigeria’s Stolen Assets

Alleged Corruption: SERAP Writes Buhari Over SGF's CaseA civil society group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has sent an open letter to U.S President, Donald Trump, urging his administration to “attach and release to Nigeria, some $500 million worth of US-based proceeds of corruption traced to former Nigerian dictator, General Sani Abacha”.

The letter dated February 3, was signed by the organization’s U.S Volunteer Counsel, Professor Alexander W. Sierck and its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, SERAP.

SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, revealed content of the letter in a statement to the media on Sunday, February 5.

The letter tells President Trump: “These proceeds are separate from the $480 million of Abacha-origin funds that have been forfeited to the U.S under an August 2014 U.S Federal District Court order. SERAP’s request is fully consistent with the UN Convention Against Corruption, which both the U.S and Nigeria have ratified.

“The U.S Department of Justice must promptly initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings against these proceeds so as to fulfill several non-controversial commitments by the U.S to assist Nigeria in recovering assets looted by former Nigerian government officials.”

The letter, of which copies were sent to the US ambassador to Nigeria Stuart Symington, and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, further reads in part:

“SERAP urges your new Administration to initiate discussions with the Nigerian government to fulfill these objectives within an agreed framework and timeline.

“Simultaneously, the Administration should instruct the Justice Department to initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings in regard to the above-referenced $500 million in assets described above.”

“Any bilateral discussions between the U.S and Nigeria concerning these assets should include clear acknowledgement of the significant role that civil society plays in asset recovery matters.

“To that end, the respective governments ought to commit to promptly sharing information with relevant civil society organizations on stolen assets of Nigerian origin located in the US or otherwise subject to US jurisdiction. This proposed commitment is similar to one between the US and Kenya as well as consistent with Articles 46(4) and 56 of the UN Convention Against Corruption.

“SERAP notes that Article 51 of the UN Convention against Corruption provides for the return of “corrupt” assets to countries of origin as a fundamental principle. Article 43 provides likewise.

“Similarly, under Articles 47(3)(a) and (b) states parties have an obligation to return forfeited or confiscated assets in cases of public corruption, as here, or when the requesting party reasonably establishes either prior ownership or damages to the states.”

“In SERAP’s judgment, some or all of these requirements have been met with respect to the $500 million in proceeds described above. A resolution adopted by the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention Against Corruption in Panama in November 2013 reaffirms this obligation, by requiring state to make “every effort” to return such proceeds. to the victim state.

“Nigeria’s Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption has recently informed SERAP that the U.S Government has identified another $500 million or so proceeds of Nigerian corruption, subject to US jurisdiction.”

In January 2017, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay, had raised the alarm that Nigeria risked losing another $550m recovered from the Abacha family to the government of United States.

Sagay said that the amount represented a separate tranche from the $480m earlier forfeited to the U.S, following a court judgment.

According to him, “Nigeria presently stands to lose another $550m recovered from the Abacha family to the US, contrary to the earlier promise by the U.S to return same to Nigeria.”

US Begins Forfeiture Proceedings On Abacha’s Loot

Nigeria’s military Head of State between November 17, 1993 and June 8, 1998, Sani Abacha

The US has begun forfeiture proceedings on the proceeds of corruption owned by a former Nigerian Head of State, late General Sani Abacha.

Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohammed Bello Adoke, in a statement on Wednesday said that his office had received requests for Mutual Legal Assistance for the Central Authority of the United States in relation to the forfeiture.

He expressed the Nigerian government’s readiness to cooperate with the United States in line with obligations assumed under the Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and applauded the efforts of the United States to recover the ​proceeds of corruption for the benefit of the people of ​Nigeria

“The proceedings will make it possible for the defendants to forfeit over $550million and £95,910 in 10 accounts and six investment portfolios linked to Abacha in France, the ​Britain, British Virgin Islands and the United States.

“The overall objective of these efforts is to ensure that ​Nigeria as the Victim State is able to have the forfeited ​assets (money) repatriated to Nigeria to fund ​development projects for the benefit of the people in ​accordance with the dictates of Chapter IV of the United ​Nations Convention against corruption (UNCAC)” the statement read.

He assured the US government that Nigeria, as State Party to UNCAC, would do all that was required to realise the objective.

The forfeiture proceedings were initiated by the United States Department of Justice.