Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, has said that it is time for the Nigerian people to get answers to the where the sum of $12.2billion allegedly disappeared to under the watch of former military leader, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida.
The rights activist made the statement while giving a keynote address at the Conference on “Agenda Setting for Citizens’ Interaction with Stolen Assets Recovery: Abacha Loot Recovery and Utilization as Case Study”,
At the event which was organized by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) in Abuja, Mr. Falana said many Nigerians have indeed wondered why the anti-graft agencies have not investigated the disappearance of the sum of $12.2 from under the Ibrahim Babangida military junta.
He said that in the past the Federal High Court has struck out the case to get answers to the missing funds for want of locus standi on the part of the plaintiffs, he, however, argued that since the anti-graft agencies have the statutory power to recover stolen public money when traced, then they should do so and avail Nigerians answers as to the whereabouts of the funds.
Below is the full statement by the human rights advocate.
“Beyond the recovery of the Sani Abacha Loot (Being the keynote address delivered by Femi Falana SAN at the Conference on “Agenda Setting for Citizens’ Interaction with Stolen Assets Recovery: Abacha Loot Recovery and Utilization as Case Study” organized by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA) held at Abuja on July 3, 2019)
Following the death of the then military Head of State, General Sani Abacha on June 8, 1998, his successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar ordered a probe into the looting of the Central Bank of Nigeria from 1993-1998. At the end of the enquiry, it was established that the late dictator stole over $5 billion from the vaults of the CBN through his National Security Adviser, Mr. Mohammed Gwazo. A substantial part of the stolen fund has since been traced to over 140 bank accounts in western countries and some remote islands in the world.
Based on the report of the investigation the Federal Government recovered $635 million, £75 million, DM 30 million and N9 billion as well as several vehicles and properties in Abuja, Lagos and Kano together with 40% interests in West African Refinery in Sierra Leone. Other assets were recovered from the family and associates of the late General Abacha. The forfeited assets were promulgated into law and signed by General Abubakar on 26th May 1999. I have since confirmed that all the funds and assets listed in the Schedule to the Forfeiture of Assets, Etc. (Certain Persons) Decree no 53 of 1999 had been recovered and forfeited to the Federal Government.
Upon the restoration of civil rule in May 1999 the Olusegun Obasanjo Administration embarked on the recovery of the remaining Abacha loot. At page 495 of the second volume of his book entitled “My Watch” former President Obasanjo stated that “…by the time I left office in May 2009 (sic), over $2 billion and £100 million had been recovered from the Abacha family abroad, and well as N10 billion in cash and properties locally.”
Under the Goodluck Jonathan Administration, the recovery efforts continued and more of the loot was recovered. According to the government, its efforts led to the recovery of $226.3 million from Liechtenstein in addition to the €7.5 Million that was recovered from an associated company of the Abacha’s in Liechtenstein. The Federal Government also recovered and repatriated the sum of £22.5 million confiscated from an associate of the Abacha family by the Authorities of the Island of Jersey.
Based on public demand for a detailed account of the loot recovered by the federal government, a former Minister of Finance, claimed rather falsely that the sum of $500 million from the Abacha loot had been spent on some projects in the six geopolitical zones in the country. To lend credence to the fraudulent claim, the World Bank confirmed, in a reply to an enquiry by SERAP, that the $500 million had been judiciously spent on some development projects. The Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA attempted to confirm the projects but could not locate them. It was at that juncture that the Board of the World Bank withdrew its endorsemd nt of the phantom ptojects.
Sometime in 2015, the Premium Times, an online news medium reported that $322 million and £5.5 million from the Abacha loot was released to a former National Security, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd). While confirming the transfer of the fund, a former Minister of Finance stated that it was released under an emergency to purchase arms and ammunition to prosecute the war on terror. From the investigation conducted by the EFCC, it has been confirmed that the fund earmarked for arms procurement was distributed to well-known individuals.
With respect, the excuse for the release of the sum of $322 million and £5.5 million for the alleged prosecution of the war on terror is untenable having regards to the fact that former President Jonathan had secured the approval of the National Assembly to take a loan of $1 billion to equip the armed forces to fight insurgency. Therefore, the self-induced urgency created by the government is not a justification for the utter violation of the Constitution and the Public Procurement Act.
In spite of public pressure, the federal government ignored the demand to account for the loot. Thus, the Socio-Economic and Accountability Project (SERAP) filed an action at the federal high court for mandamus to compel the federal government to account for the loot. In a historic judgment delivered in the case, the presiding judge, Idris J. (as he then was) granted the reliefs sought by SERAP and ordered successive governments to account for all loot recovered since 1999. A former President whose administration recovered the bulk of the loot arrogantly said that the judge was “stupid” for having the temerity to have asked him to account among other rulers.
It is public knowledge that the recovery of the Abacha loot has continued. Last year, the federal government recovered $321 million from Switzerland. Based on the agreement with the Swiss government the said sum of $321 million is currently being distributed to the poorest people in Nigeria as part of the cash transfer policy of the Buhari administration. Another sum of $268 million has just been confiscated by the British government. Curiously, the British, American and Swiss governments are insisting that they are entitled to a share of the confiscated loot. On account of the loot that has recovered so far by the federal government, President Buhari ought to publicly apologize to the Nigerian people having denied that the late General Sani Abacha was involved in the criminal diversion of public funds.
From the foregoing, it is pertinent to note that not less than $3.5 billion had been recovered from the Abacha loot. Much more can still be recovered. But apart from demanding for the full account of the Abacha loot, we must insist that the investigation of the criminal diversion of looted wealth be extended to cover other indicted public officers. During the electioneering campaign last year, President Buhari threatened to probe the $16 billion allegedly purportedly spent on generating electricity in the country. This allegation ought to be investigated without any further delay.
Many Nigerians have indeed wondered why the anti-graft agencies have not investigated the disappearance of the sum of $12.2 from under the Ibrahim Babangida military junta. A few years ago, the SERAP and other 5 other NGOs sought to compel the federal government to recover the huge fund. But the Federal High Court struck out the case for want of locus standi on the part of the plaintiffs. But since the anti-graft agencies have the statutory power to recover stolen public money it is traced. Since the probe has been delayed on the grounds that the federal government could not locate a copy of the report of the Pius Okigbo Panel on reorganisation of the Central Bank. Happily, a human rights body which has found a copy of the report will not hesitate to collaborate with the anti-graft agencies if they are willing to investigate the missing fund.
Finally, while thanking HEDA for this all-important conference I wish to challenge the progressive CSOs in Nigeria to link up with their colleagues in Europe, America and Middle East for joint efforts in mounting pressure on foreign governments, banks and other financial institutions that are warehousing the stolen wealth of the people of Nigeria. We must learn from some CSOs that have embarked on independent initiatives to recover the looted wealth and assets belonging to African countries.”
The General stated categorically that the twitter handles bearing his name and photographs are fake and targeted at misleading unsuspecting members of the public.
“We wish to emphatically state that General Babangida is an elder statesman and a peacemaker. A malicious story in an online media, ELOMBAHNEWS, dated 16th February 2019 credited to General IB Babangida is a malicious Fake News.”
“Accordingly, we wish to advise the social media community and the general public to be wary of the fake accounts, mischievous fake online news and discountenance whatever message conveyed therein.” the statement read in part.
The Police have explained why the spokesperson for former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, Mr Kassim Afegbua, was declared wanted.
Mr Afegbua was declared wanted on Monday, a day after he issued a statement on behalf of General Babangida, asking President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek re-election.
A controversy started not long after he issued the statement when a second statement was issued in which the former military President denied authorising the statement.
In declaring Mr Afegbua wanted, the police advised him to report to the nearest police station.
On Tuesday morning, the Police Public Relations Officer, Jimoh Moshood, told Channels Television that Mr Afegbue made “injurious falsehood”, among other criminal offences.
“The Inspector General of Police has ordered his arrest for giving false statement, making injurious falsehood and equally defamation of character or an act which is inimical to law and order in the country,” Mr Moshood said when he appeared on the breakfast show, Sunrise Daily.
He added that the police became involved after General Babangida denied authorising the statement.
The Force PRO, however, declined to give details about the progress the police have made in its investigation when asked if the former military president had been contacted to confirm whether he issued the statement.
Mr Moshood also declined to disclose whether Mr Afegbua had been invited by the police or contacted before being declared wanted.
“We have not reached any conclusion because we have commenced an investigation into the matter and that is why he is wanted by the police to come and give an explanation,” the Police PRO said.
“There is no way we can conclude any investigation through the media, it is not done. And whatsoever Kassim said, let him come and tell us because we have opened up a case against him and he must come and provide answers to all the questions.”
Former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to step down in 2019 to allow for a generational shift.
He, however, urges Nigerians to cooperate with the President until his tenure ends.
Babangida, in a statement issued by his media aide, Kassim Afegbua, also lamented the flow of blood in the country.
The comments of the former military ruler come two weeks after former President Olusegun Buhari advised President Buhari not to seek for a second term in office.
To Babangida, Nigeria is at a major crossroads at this moment in its history. He specifically warned that the choices Nigerians make regarding the leadership question would determine the country’s vision politically, economically, and religiously.
While regretting that Africa’s most populous nation is still in search of the right leadership to contend with the dynamics of a 21st century, the former military believes that our strength lies in our diversity.
He said, “In 2019 and beyond, we should come to a national consensus that we need new breed leadership with requisite capacity to manage our diversities and jump-start a process of launching the country on the super highway of technology-driven leadership in line with the dynamics of modern governance.
“It is short of saying enough of this analogue system. Let’s give way for digital leadership orientation with all the trappings of consultative, constructive, communicative, interactive, and utility-driven approach where everyone has a role to play in the process of enthroning accountability and transparency in governance.
“I am particularly enamored that Nigerians are becoming more and more conscious of their rights; and their ability to speak truth to power and interrogate those elected to represent them without fear of arrest and harassment. These are part of the ennobling principles of representative democracy.
“As citizens in a democracy, it is our civic responsibility to demand accountability and transparency. Our elected leaders owe us that simple but remarkable accountability creed. Whenever we criticize them, it is not that we do not like their guts; it is just that as stakeholders in the political economy of the country, we also carry certain responsibilities.”
On the spate of needless killings in some parts of the country, Babangida called for the reorientation of the herdsmen or gun-men to embrace ranching as a new and modern way to herd cattle.
He also wants the capacity of the Nigeria Police, the Nigeria Army, the Navy and Air Force to be expanded while providing the necessary security for all.
He added, “We need to catch up with modern sophistication in crime detection and crime fighting. Due to the peculiarity of our country, we must begin community policing to close the gaps that presently exist in our policing system. We cannot continue to use old methods and expect new results.
“We just have to constructively engage the people from time to time through platforms that would help them ventilate their opinions and viewpoints.”
While the next general election is just a year to go, the elder statesman hopes that citizens would take destiny in their hands to vote for a new breed of leadership.
Former Military President, Mr Ibrahim Babangida, has called for urgent steps to be taken in addressing the numerous security challenges confronting the nation.
He was particularly worried about the current bloodshed in some parts of the country.
“We have witnessed so much bloodshed through communal clashes and conflicts that need urgent actions to stop them now,” he said.
The former leader also urged members of the Armed Forces and security agencies to remain apolitical, neutral and focus on the ethics of discipline which is the hallmark of their profession.
Leaders at all levels of governance were also not exempted as Babangida admonished them to serve as national vanguards in resolving the various conflicts affecting the nation’s security.
He added, “As people, we should inculcate our cultural values, that promote good conduct, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence. We should eschew hate speeches, discrimination and other vices that trigger senseless violence and bloodshed.”
While congratulating the Nigerian Armed Forces on the celebration of this year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day, he advised Nigerians to demonstrate their appreciation of the courage of the fallen heroes by providing support for the welfare and upkeep of the families they left behind.
Former military president, Ibrahim Babangida has called on Nigerians to be united, in a New Year message to citizens.
Babangida stated this in a statement he personally signed on Monday.
“As Nigerians, our unique strengths and characters to overcome our challenges collectively have never been in doubt, what we need now more than ever is to galvanize these unique qualities for the good of all as permissible under a democratic setup,” he said.
While congratulating Nigerians for making it to the New Year, the former President appealed to Nigerians to use the year in renewing their commitment to the collective growth, prosperity, and development of the country.
This, he said could be achieved by contributing more to nation-building and shun any form of negative tendencies.
Although he admitted the security and economic challenges faced by Nigerians, he, however, stated that diversity of the country remains its strength.
He added, “I have the hope that the nation we so sacrifice to keep going and to this age can only be better notwithstanding various security and economic challenges that have become a world order; confronting every country of the world in different magnitude and in a different way.”
Babangida further appealed to both citizens and leaders at all levels to build on the legacies of the past leaders.
Nigeria’s former Military President, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), has reacted to the defection of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The reaction comes three days after the former vice president announced that he was returning to the PDP, following his resignation from the All Progressives Congress (APC) last month.
IBB, as fondly called, said Atiku’s case was not the first in the country and that he had the right to associate himself with any political party of his choice.
“He (Atiku) is a Nigerian; he is allowed to go to any party and our constitution allows it. So, it is not new and there is nothing wrong for politicians to move from one party to another,” he said on Wednesday.
The elder statesman was speaking when he received members of the PDP Convention Planning Committee led by their Chairman and Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, at his residence in Minna, the Niger State capital.
He was also confident that the committee would conduct a hitch-free and widely accepted national convention on Saturday, December 9 in Abuja.
“I am glad they (committee members) are working hard and I have seen that they want to make sure that the convention of the PDP is rancour-free, transparent, and everybody will be given a level playing ground.
“PDP will see one of the best conventions like never before. The ability of any party to go through the problems of party formation – challenges of going through the ups and downs and come together again after learning lessons from what happened and agree to move forward – is good for democracy,” he said.
On his part, Governor Okowa said the visit was in line with the tradition of the party to PDP elders and leaders for the right decisions to be taken, especially as the convention draws closer.
He also assured the former Head of State that adequate measures were being put in place to ensure a successful convention aimed at spurring more former members to reunite with the party.
Okowa said: “A lot has been put on the ground for a successful convention to be held. We thank the Caretaker Committee of our party because they have done a lot ahead of the inauguration on Monday, and since then, we have held several meetings.”
“The various sub-committees are really working very hard. As at today, we are confident that we are on course, in terms of trying to provide all that has to be done on Saturday.
“We are going to have an exciting convention, there is no doubt about that; everything concerning the electoral process has been put in place, the accreditation team by today will get the last list of the statutory delegates from Osun and Anambra states,” he added.
The governor, however, said the convention be restricted as not all members would be granted access to the venue in the interest of the party.
He also informed the PDP chieftain that he was aware of the allegations that some governors were trying to hijack the process, saying it was speculative and wrong.
“The governors did not take a decision on that and we have 25 states that are not controlled by the PDP governors; we believe more persons will come into our party and we are ready to receive them,” he said.
On his part, Chairman of the PDP Caretaker Committee, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, said Anambra and Osun states would make use of statutory delegates for the convention due to the conflicts that have bedevilled the party in both states recently.
He said: “The success story, so far, is a confirmation of series of interaction with leaders and founding members of the party. As it concerns Anambra and Osun participating in the convention, we will basically have to make use of statutory delegates.
“It is not the first time we find states making use of statutory delegates to avoid conflicts that have to do with the legitimacy of elected delegates.
“it’s barely three days to the d day, a convention many have assumed will either mar or make the strongest opposition party in the nations democratic process. What many Nigerians, especially members of the PDP will be looking forward is a transparent and fair convention as promised by the leaders of the party,” he said.
Former Military President, Retired General Ibrahim Babangida, says Nigeria needs a viable opposition to drive the political system in the country.
General Babangida said this on Wednesday during a meeting with Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, at his country home in Minna, the Niger State capital.
Speaking before the meeting went into closed-door, the former military president and a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) commended the governor for what he described as Wike’s strong political courage to stand by the party.
On the just concluded Anambra governorship election, the elder statesman said the process has been commendable from what he has read and heard so far, although his party lost in the election.
He, however, hopes that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and other relevant institutions would extend such performance to other parts of the country, especially in the 2019 general elections.
In his earlier remark, Governor Wkie said General Babangida represents stronger leadership for the party, adding that the purpose of his visit was to welcome him back from his trip.
He said he has also met with the former military president to discuss some party matters, especially in view of the PDP convention which has been scheduled for December 9.
Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar has said while he remains a loyal PDP member, he doesn’t have the right or power to stop others from associating or seeking registration for new parties.
Following press enquiries on the reported registration of the Peoples’ Democratic Movement (PDM) as a political party, the former Vice President said he would always welcome the expansion of the political space to accommodate all shades of opinions or political hue.
While acknowledging that many of his political associates are involved in registering the PDM, Atiku Abubakar explained that he had no powers to stop adults with common interests from coming together to form a party.
He also noted that many of his political associates are equally members of political parties other than the PDP.
According to him, freedom of association as enshrined in the constitution is the beauty of democracy and that he wouldn’t dissuade any of his followers from seeking a platform to promote their programmes.
Political analysts It would be recalled that the PDM played active roles of in the country’s democratic transition from the Babangida, Abacha and Abdulsalami administrations, a platform founded by late General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, which provided the impetus for his impressive performance across the country during the September 1992 presidential primaries, which were later cancelled by the military regime.
The late Gen. Yar’Adua came close to becoming President, with the help of the formidable PDM structure. In 1999, the PDM was also part of the force behind the emergence of former President Obasanjo as PDP presidential candidate.
It should also be of note, that the choice of Atiku Abubakar as running mate to Obasanjo in 1999 was a recognition of the active role of the PDM platform in his victory.
The Niger State Government has alleged the existence of a plot to silence Governor Mu’azu Aliyu over his recent comment on the 2015 presidential election.
In a statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Danladi Ndayebo, the government claimed that “some hawks in Abuja have concluded arrangements to print posters with Governor Aliyu’s portrait and a message of 2015:Vote Babangida Aliyu for President, thereby pitting him against the party which has placed an embargo on campaign for the presidency.”
The statement further alleged that some media houses have been commissioned to write negative reports against Governor Aliyu as part of a grand design to discredit him and the state government.
“But Governor Aliyu is a law abiding member of the PDP and is very much aware of the party’s directive to members not to commence campaign for the 2015 presidential election,” the statement said.
It added: “For the avoidance of doubt, Governor Aliyu has not declared for the presidency. If anything, he is at the moment focused on delivering on the mandate given to him by the people of Niger State and would not be distracted.”
The statement maintained that Governor Aliyu believes that “God is the ultimate decider of who becomes what,” just as he cautioned Nigerians to be wary of persons who may want to discredit others for selfish gains.
The governor reiterated his commitment to the ongoing efforts at re-engineering the state to achieve its vision of becoming one of the top three most developed state economies by the year 2020.
A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed the suit filed by civil society groups against the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, delivered the ruling on Thursday in Abuja. He said the applicants lack the locus standi to institute the case.
Justice Kolawole however said the plaintiffs should not be seen as busy bodies but patriotic citizens.
Six civil society groups, including the Socio-Economic and Accountability Project (SERAP), Access to Justice and Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA), the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC), Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) and Partnership for Justice sued the Attorney- General of the Federation (AGF) and the CBN over the much publicised $12.4 billion oil windfall, which the country recorded between 1988 and 1992, while former military President, Retired General Ibrahim Babangida, was in power.
The groups wanted the court to compel the government to release a report of a probe panel headed by Pius Okigbo which probed the spending of the money by the government.
The Federal Government raised many arguments against the suit including: that the report was missing, only the AGF could demand for such a report, and the court had no jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The Judge held that the applicants could not establish the allegation of a “dedicated account” within the CBN where the money was domiciled.
Justice Kolawole further said the action was “Status barred” as applicant failed to approach the court within 12 months allowed by law in 2005 after the release of the Okadigbo Report on the misappropriation of the windfall.
He said that the applicant had failed to produce a certified copy of the Okigbo Report, adding that “the issues raised remained doubtful in the circumstance.”
The judge said: “More worrisome is the fact that Fundamental Rights Enforcement Procedure Rules 2009 relied on by the applicant is in conflict with Section 46 (1) (3) of the 1999 Constitution.
“The Chief Justice of Nigeria has assumed legislative powers in the amendment of the rules to enlarge the justiceable rights of the applicants not originally captured in the Constitution.
“This is, however, not done to discredit the justiceable rights as enshrined in the African Charter on Fundamental Human Rights, which the applicants may have relied on heavily.
“All the equitable relives sought in the application are hereby dismissed, unless the applicants are able to establish the existence of a dedicate account which the money was kept, I am afraid the other auxiliary relives shall not be granted,” he said.
The applicants had in 2010 brought the motion on notice pursuant to Order 1 Rule 2 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 as reserved by Section 315 of the 1999 Constitution.
They have also relied on Order 2 Rules 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of the Fundamental Rights (Enforcement Procedure) Rules 2009 and the inherent jurisdiction of the court.
The applicants, therefore, sought an order compelling the respondents to publish detailed statement of the account relating to the spending of the $12.4 billion oil windfall between 1988 and 1994.
The applicant also sought for an order directing the respondents to diligently and effectively bring to justice anyone suspected of corruption and mismanagement of the money.
They further sought for an order directing the respondents to return to the Federal account any money which was the subject matter of corruption.
The applicant sought for an order directing the respondents to provide adequate reparation, which may take the form of restitution, compensation, satisfaction or guarantee of non-repetition to millions of Nigerians that had been denied as the result of the misuse of the money.
The applicant had among other declarations, prayed the court to rule that the refusal of the respondents to release the detailed statement of account relating to the windfall was illegal and unlawful.
The applicant argued that they were entitled to information as guaranteed by Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.
Sola Egbeyinka, who held the brief of Femi Falana, counsel to the applicants told newsmen after the proceedings that the ruling would be challenged.