The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has urged Nigerians to pay more attention on how the Abacha loot is being utilised other than focusing on rhetorics.
In a statement from the office of the Attorney-General, Mr Malami noted that most of what is being discussed in the media regarding the characterization of the Abacha recovered funds are needless.
Mr Malami argued that contrary to what some may believe, he has been describing the funds in question as ‘Abacha Loot’, but had to change the term because when the fund were legitimately repatriated, then it became an asset.
He urged Nigerians to focus more on the use of the funds rather than continue to engage in what he termed a contest of ‘verbal dexterity and vocal acrobatics’.
The Nigerian government has received $311,797,866.11 recovered assets of General Sani Abacha repatriated from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
The Attorney-General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, confirmed this on Monday in a statement by the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations at his office, Dr Umar Gwandu.
According to Malami, the amount increased significantly from over $308 million mentioned in an earlier statement in February to over $311million as a result of the interest that accrued from February 3 to April 28, when the fund was transferred to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He noted that the litigation process for the return of the assets titled ‘Abacha III’ commenced in 2014 while the diplomatic process that culminated in the signing of the Asset Return Agreement commenced in 2018.
The agreement was signed on February 3 by the governments of Nigeria, the United States, and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
“This Agreement is based on international law and cooperation measures, that sets out the procedures for the repatriation, transfer, disposition, and management of the assets,” he said.
According to the statement, the recovery effort consolidates on the record of the Muhammadu Buhari administration which has a history of recovery of $322m from Switzerland in 2018.
It added that the recovered loots were transparently and judiciously deployed in supporting indigent Nigerians as specified in the agreement signed with Switzerland and the World Bank.
Malami, who led the negotiation team, noted that the tripartite agreement and the process towards the implementation represented a major watershed in International Asset Recovery and Repatriation as it sought to provide benefit to the victims of corruption.
He said, “In line with the 2020 Asset Return Agreement, the fund has been transferred to a Central Bank of Nigeria Asset Recovery designated account and would be paid to the National Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) within the next fourteen days.
“The NSIA is responsible for the management and execution of the projects to which the funds will be applied.”
The minister insisted that the latest recovery would support and assist in expediting the construction of three major infrastructure projects across Nigeria – Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Abuja – Kano Road, and the Second Niger Bridge.
He revealed that the government was in the process of establishing a Project Monitoring Team to oversee the implementation of the projects and report regularly on progress made to the public.
In order to ensure transparent management of the returned assets, Malami said the government would engage a Civil Society Organisation who has combined expertise in substantial infrastructure projects, civil engineering, anti-corruption compliance, anti-human trafficking compliance, and procurement to provide additional monitoring and oversight.
He noted that the process for the engagement of the CSO monitor has already commenced with the adverts placed in two local newspapers.
The recovered funds, according to the minister, were laundered through the U.S. banking system and then held in bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey.
He revealed that a U.S. Federal Court in Washington D.C. forfeited the money in 2014, as property involved in the illicit laundering of the proceeds of corruption arising in Nigeria during the period when General Abacha was Head of State from 1993 to 1998.
Malami added that in 2017, the Nigerian government filed a case in the Bailiwick of Jersey to assert its authority as the owner of the funds and as the victim of the action of General Abacha.
He, therefore, called for greater cooperation and mutual respect among countries in the implementation of expeditious cooperation measures already set out in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, and in the implementation of the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) principles on the repatriation of stolen assets.
The minister assured Nigerians that the government would ensure that the returned assets were transparently managed.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, says the directive of the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Tanko Mohammed for courts to suspend proceedings follows the Quarantine Act signed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Malami in a statement issued on Wednesday by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, however, clarified that courts are expected to attend to matters that are urgent, essential or time-bound even during the lockdown.
The AGF explained that since speedy dispensation of justice is a cardinal principle of the Justice Sector Reform of the present administration, only time-bound cases will be treated with dispatch and accorded the required attention as the nation battles the COVID-19 scourge.
According to the statement, the directive was communicated in a letter addressed to all heads of courts dated 1st April 2020 conveying the COVID 19 Regulation 2020.
It read in part: “Further to the letter Ref. No. NJC/CIR/HOC/11/631 dated 23rd March 2020 by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice I. T. Mohammad, CFR directing suspension of Court sittings for an initial period of two weeks at the first instance, except in matters that are urgent, essential or time-bound according to extant laws.”
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) says the Federal Government remains committed to taking millions of Nigerians out of poverty.
Malami said this on Tuesday at the distribution of microloans to 1,500 women and youths in Kebbi State organised by the National Directorate of Employment.
According to him, the singular action of empowering Nigerians with macro loans for boosting small scale business activities demonstrates the government’s efforts in that regard.
Speaking further, the minister also noted that achieving economically productive, socially responsible and culturally viable womenfolk requires systematic and consistent efforts, as women constitute a critical sector and essential component to reckon with for any meaningful national development.
The AGF said he was optimistic that the microloan given would boost business activities in the area especially in view of the forthcoming Argungu International Fishing and Cultural Festivals.
According to him, in addition to facilitating job creation through the establishment of new ministries, departments and agencies, the Federal Government is committed to massive employment of teaming Nigerian populace in various Ministries, Departments and Agencies including security and paramilitary sectors.
While congratulating the beneficiaries of the scheme, Malami urged them to make judicious use of the funds provided.
The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation has arraigned a former Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), Mr Peter Jack.
Jack was brought before the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court sitting in Apo on Tuesday over alleged N50 million contract scam.
He, however, pleaded not guilty to the two charges of criminal breach of trust and cheating.
In an oral bail application, the defence counsel, Alex Ekpebta, urged the court to grant the defendant bail on liberal terms on the ground that the offence was a bailable one.
But the prosecution counsel, Chelsy Emezina, told the court that some times in 2015, one Tunde Ajala, transferred the sum of N50 million out of N100 million agreed to the defendant as payment to award him a contract worth over N1 billion and the said contract was never awarded.
The prosecutor insisted that the defendant may jump bail if granted, adding that he should be remanded in a correctional facility.
Ruling on the bail application, Justice Sylvanus Oriji admitted the defendant to bail in the sum of N20 million with two sureties in like sum.
He also directed that the sureties, one of whom must be a civil servant, must depose to an affidavit of means and must be resident within the court’s jurisdiction.
The judge, thereafter, adjourned the trial of the case until April 30 and May 18, 2020.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), says looted funds recovered by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration were judiciously utilized for high-impact public-oriented projects.
He was quoted to have said this in a statement signed on Tuesday by the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu.
According to the statement, Malami said the application of the fund was monitored by the World Bank and Civil Society Organisations in the areas of Social Investment Programmes including N-power, School-feeding and associated interventions overseen from the office of Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
“The money was judiciously applied for the purpose for which it was meant for and none of the parties; neither the Swiss government, nor the World Bank, much less of the Civil Society Organisation raised any question regarding reputation relating to the application of the funds,” he said.
Speaking further, the minister stated that looted funds expected from the United States of America and the Island of Jessy are yet to be received by the government, “so the issue regarding embezzlement or misappropriation of same is an imaginary illusion which does not even arise as the money has not yet been repatriated to Nigeria”.
“The role of the PDP relating to transparency and accountability over the looted assets can best be appreciated with particular reference to the 2003 agreement brokered by the PDP government and the question of liability and accountability raised by Falana can best be answered by the implications of the 2003 agreement,” he added.
Malami, therefore, noted that looted monies recovered before 2015 were substantially recovered by past governments that should be made to account on the application or otherwise of the funds.
The Nigeria government has denied reports that it is planning to hand over about $100 million of the money looted by former Head of State, Sani Abacha, to the governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu.
In court papers filed before the District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington DC, as reported by Bloomberg, the United States Department of Justice claimed that the payment was part of an agreement with the governor in 2018.
But the government clarified the controversy in a statement on Saturday from the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami.
Malami explained that the family assets of Governor Bagudu, in contention with the United States, was a separate cause.
He insisted that they have nothing to do with the assets recovered under the Abacha 2014 Non-Prosecution Agreement.
The minister highlighted the transparent management and utilisation of returned assets as core components of the government’s anti-corruption drive.
According to him, the present administration is committed to independent asset recovery efforts in a manner that is consistent with domestic laws, national interest and its obligations under international law.
Malami, however, stated that the US government and the Bagudu family have been in court since 2014 over assets already rescinded under the 2003 agreement.
He insisted that the government would continue to fight the menace of corruption and engage international partners in the recovery and return of stolen assets to the country.
The minister added that the 2020 agreement would be managed by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority and monitored by the civil society organisations.
Read the full statement below:
WE ARE NOT COMMITTED TO PAYMENT OF $100M OUT ABACHA LOOT- MALAMI
The Federal Government of Nigeria is strongly committed, in principle and practice, to fighting the menace of corruption.
A core component of Nigeria’s anti-corruption efforts includes the transparent management and utilisation of returned assets as well as independent asset recovery efforts in a manner consistent with its domestic law, national interest and its obligations under international law.
President Buhari remains the first President of Nigeria to make this commitment and has never and does not plan to deviate from these commitments contrary to statements in the media.
To achieve the President’s objectives, the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) has engaged and continues to engage with international partners, including the United States of America, in the recovery and return to Nigeria of stolen assets.
Nigeria and the United States of America are continually cooperating in the recovery and return of those assets.
This long-standing cooperation recently culminated in the successful signing of a memorandum of understanding for the repatriation of over $300 million looted assets associated with General Sani Abacha.
It is pertinent to recall at this juncture that prior to the 2020 agreement with the United States and the Island of Jersey, the Federal Government has signed an agreement for the return of over 300 million US dollars in 2017 which was effectively deployed for the purpose for which it was agreed to be applied without any issue of reputation
The FGN is also negotiating the recovery of assets from several countries and the agreements for the recoveries and the procedure for recoveries are always presented to Federal Executive Council for approval and duly made public once the processes have been concluded.
No third-party interest was captured in the Council memo that was approved by the Council.
The 2017 repatriated funds were deployed to the implementation of the Social Investment programme and are being monitored by civil society organisations across the country.
The 2020 Agreement which will be managed by Nigeria’s Sovereign Investment Authority, will also be monitored by civil society organisations and will be used to support the completion of critical road infrastructures, namely Abuja to Kano Road, Second Niger Bridge and the Lagos to Ibadan expressways.
These projects will support socio-economic development across the country.
Nigeria is also cooperating with the United States in the recovery of several other assets, including corruption proceeds linked to former Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke and her associates, and former State Governor James Ibori, as well as several others.
The government of President Buhari remained committed to the recovery of whatever funds are owed Nigeria and the government in that regard, has gone to court in different countries to assert its rights as a victim of corruption in order to have those assets returned to Nigeria.
In the same manner that Nigeria is asserting its rights to the assets, there are others, including individuals, entities, and countries who have rights and who have gone to court to contest the legality or otherwise of Nigeria’s claims against their assets.
It is well known that the USA and the Bagudu family have been in court since 2014 over assets already rescinded under the 2003 Agreement.
The matters are to be determined in the United Kingdom and the United States Courts.
The Bagudu family assets in contention, which constitutes a distinct and separate cause of action, does not have anything to do with the assets already recovered and being recovered under the Abacha 2014 non-prosecution agreement.
It is therefore mischievous and pedestrian for anyone to seek to turn the law and the facts on its head on the matter of repatriation whose terms are clearly spelt out and agreed among the parties.
The government of Nigeria remains fully committed to continued cooperation with the United States of America and other countries in a reciprocal manner.
We urge the media and the general public to wait for the outcome of the court decisions and ongoing settlement efforts in this matter.
Dr. Umar Jibrilu Gwandu
(Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations
Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice)
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has fixed March 25, 2020, for the hearing of the N1 billion fundamental rights enforcement suit filed by activist and publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore, and Olawale Bakare.
The duo filed their separate suits against the Director-General of the Department of State Service, Yusuf Bichi, and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, over their alleged illegal detention, prior to their release in December 2019.
Sowore and Bakare are being prosecuted by the Federal Government on charges of treasonable felony, in November 2019.
Operatives of the DSS arrested Mr Sowore in Lagos on August 2, 2019, and Bakare in Osogbo, Osun State, on August 5, 2019, for organising a protest tagged #RevolutionNow, which the Federal Government alleged was aimed at toppling the regime of the President, Muhammadu Buhari.
At the resumed hearing of their fundamental rights enforcement suits, Justice Inyang Ekwo in separate proceedings fixed the hearing of the two suits for March 25 after granting the applications for the regularisation of some processes filed out of time by the parties.
Messrs Sowore and Bakare who were detained in the custody of the DSS from August to December 2019 are demanding N500m damages each in their separate suits.
The applicants also want the court to declare that their arrest without warrant of arrest “is illegal as it violates” their fundamental right ‘to personal liberty’.
Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami has called on civil society organisations and Nigerians generally to be involved in monitoring how recovered Abacha’s loot will be used by the Federal Government.
The Minister said it is important for Nigerians to be involved in the monitoring of the usage of the recovered fund in the implementation of the key infrastructure projects that will greatly enhance road transportation in Nigeria.
Malami made this known after the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Government of Jersey and the United States of America signed a tripartite agreement on the recovery of over $300m looted funds.
This is contained in a statement issued by Dr Umar Jibrilu Gwandu, the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation and made available to journalists on Tuesday.
According to the statement, Malami signed the agreement on behalf of the Nigerian government while the Solicitor General and Attorney General-designate of Jersey, Mark Temple QC signed the Agreement on behalf of Jersey. The Deputy Assistant Attorney Brian Benczkowski announced the agreement on behalf of the United States.
In his address during the signing, Malami said that the “agreement has culminated in a major victory, for Nigeria and other African countries as it recognises that crime does not pay and that it is important for the international community to seek for ways to support sustainable development through the recovery and repatriation of stolen assets.”
He noted further that “Without the commitment of the three parties to the Agreement (Nigeria, Jersey and the United States) and that of the legal experts and Attorneys representing Nigeria, it would have been impossible to achieve the success recorded today.”
Malami, also stated that the government of Nigeria has committed that the assets will support and assist in expediting the construction of three major infrastructure projects across Nigeria: the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Abuja – Kano Road and the Second Niger Bridge.
He also called for greater cooperation and mutual respect amongst countries in the implementation of expeditious cooperation measures already set out in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and in the implementation of the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) principles on the repatriation of stolen assets.
“The Nigerian government, in consultation with the other parties, will also engage Civil Society Organisations, who have expertise in substantial infrastructure projects, civil engineering, anti-corruption compliance, anti-human trafficking compliance, and procurement to provide additional monitoring and oversight,” Malami added.
According to a joint press statement on the agreement issued by the government of three countries, the Federal Government is to establish a Monitoring Team to oversee the implementation of the projects and to report regularly on progress.
The recovered funds according to the US Missions were laundered through the US banking system and then held in bank accounts in Jersey in the name of Doraville Properties Corporation, a BVI company, and in the name of the son of the former Head of State of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha.
In 2014 a U.S. Federal Court in Washington DC forfeited the money as property involved in the illicit laundering of the proceeds of corruption arising in Nigeria during the period from 1993 to 1998 when General Abacha was Head of State.
According to Gwandu, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, is in the US to attend an annual three-day meeting of the United States-Nigeria Bi-national Commission in Washington DC.
He stated that Mr Malami is expected to, on behalf of the Federal Government, sign the pact as part of efforts to recover more stolen funds stashed abroad.
The statement said the meeting is aimed at reviewing bilateral relationship and taking the necessary steps to advance mutual interest in all diplomatic areas among the two countries.
Other FG delegation attending the event includes Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Adeniyi Adebayo; Minister of Defence, Maj. Gen. Bashir Magashi (retd); Minister of Foreign Affairs; Geoffrey Onyeama, National Security Adviser; Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd) as well as Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development; Sadiya Umar Faruk.
The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, on Thursday, declined to contradict South-West Governors over ‘Operation Amotekun’.
At a press briefing held after the Governors had met with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, with Malami in attendance, Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu said at no time had the federal government declared Amotekun illegal.
The Attorney-General “was misinterpreted”, Akeredolu said. “It is so clear. At no time did the government want to stop Amotekun. So there is no problem.”
When prodded by reporters to respond to Akeredolu’s comment, Malami responded by saying that “the record has been set straight by His Excellency, I have nothing to add.”
Earlier this month, the office of the Attorney-General had released a statement saying “The setting up of the paramilitary organization called ‘Amotekun’ is illegal and runs contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian law.”
The Federal Government has said there is no evidence to back the report by Transparency International which places Nigeria at 146 out of the 180 countries on the 2019 corruption perception index.
In an interview on Channels Television’s LunchTime Politics, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami said the facts on the ground do not correlate with the information dished out by Transparency International.
As far as Mr. Malami is concerned “the empirical evidence” does not support Transparency International’s report.
The Attorney General said in terms of the government’s fight against corruption, more has been done.
“In terms of the fight against corruption, we have been doing more, we have done more and we will continue to do more out of inherent conviction and desire on our part to fight against corruption devoid of any extraneous considerations relating to the rating by Transparency International.
“Our resolve to fight corruption is inherent and indeed devoid of any extraneous considerations, we will continue to do more and we will double efforts.”
Speaking from the perspective of performance, Malami said there is nothing that has not been done as a nation in the fight against corruption.
“In terms of legislation, we have done more, in terms of enforcement we have done more, in terms of recovery of looted assets we have done more, and in terms of political goodwill, we have demonstrated extra-ordinary political goodwill,” Malami stated.
The Senior Advocate challenged Transparency International to provide indices and statistics from which the organisation adjudged that Nigeria is not doing enough in its fight against corruption, adding that for a conclusion to be legitimate, then there has to be specific facts and figures to establish a position.