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.”

Alamieyeseigha Pardon: Church, Activists Drag Jonathan To UN

World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) have dragged the Federal Government to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) expressing “serious concerns about the state pardon granted former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha by President Goodluck Jonathan.”

The groups said they “consider this to be entirely inconsistent with the country’s international human rights and anticorruption commitments, and the promises made by the government of Nigeria to the United Nations during its Universal Periodic Review in 2009.”

The complaint was submitted to the UN as part of an update to the submission made by the groups to the UPR this month.

The 2009 UPR asked the government of Nigeria to pursue its “fight” against corruption so that “all its citizens” can enjoy peace, health and security. The government of Nigeria accepted all the recommendation.

WEA and SERAP said that, “However, despite these commitments to the international community, the government of Nigeria has not taken seriously its expressed commitment to combat corruption.”

The groups also said that, “By granting pardon for Alamieyeseigha the government has also seriously undermined the integrity and efficacy of the fight against corruption, eroded the credibility of public institutions (in particular anti-corruption institutions and agencies), undermined the deterrent effects of punishment for corruption, and engendered public cynicism.”

According to the groups, “The granting of pardon will also lead to a vicious cycle of corruption and impunity of perpetrators, and this can only continue to rob the government of its capacity to deliver services to the poor, and ensure that corrupt public officials keep the proceeds of their misconduct. This is double jeopardy for the victims of corruption in the country.”

The groups said that “This shows the government’s lack of political will to genuinely combat high level official corruption in Nigeria, and sends a wrong message that certain individuals who are close to the government will enjoy impunity for their misconduct and will be above the law.”

“Because corruption has been an intrinsic part of the way successive governments have operated, it will be impossible for the country to achieve development, sustainability and end poverty and discrimination if corruption persists,” the groups also said.

“We are also concerned that the granting of pardon amounts to a fundamental breach of the constitution of Nigeria, which among others requires the president to eradicate all corrupt practices and abuse of power. We hope to see the Universal Periodic Review of Nigeria reflect the concerns outlined in our submission (and this update), and include in its outcome document the following recommendations addressed to the government of Nigeria”:

a.    Rescind without further delay the alleged state pardon granted former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha

b.    Ensure full repatriation and recovery of the stolen public funds by Diepreye Alamieyeseigha

c.    Ensure full transparency and accountability in government institutions

d.    Improve financial oversight of government’s expenditure

e.    Build judicial capacity to enhance the prosecution of corrupt public officials

Mr Alamieyeseigha was detained in London on charges of money laundering while he was governor in September 2005. He escaped from the UK in December 2005. He, however, pleaded guilty in court to a six-count charge in July 2007, and was sentenced to two years in prison on each count charge.

WEA is a network of churches in 129 nations that have each formed an evangelical alliance and over 100 international organizations joining together to give a world-wide identity, voice, and platform to more than 600 million evangelical Christians

SERAP is a Nigerian based human rights and anti-corruption NGO.