The Federal Government has said it would recover 200 million pounds stashed in the United States, as it embarks on a massive recovery of assets belonging to the country.
This is according to the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami who was speaking on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Speaking on the fight against corruption and illicit financial flow in the country, he said, “We are looking at the possibility of recovering further 200m pounds among others but then, that does not mean they are not other associated assets being pursued, in terms of other countries of the world inclusive of Ireland.
“We are pursuing a lot of assets across the globe and then we intend to coordinate further meetings relating to recovery in the United Kingdom which is associated with certain personalities”.
The AGF said he would not like to further disclose the strategy the federal government will use in making the recovery, but noted that the “government is trying to gather international momentum associated with the processes and procedures, in terms of making things easier for countries to recover assets with ease”.
He added that the government is fully committed to its anti-corruption campaign and by extension spreading its dragnet to those who are in the custody of laundered or stolen funds.
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of $153,310,000, which a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueze, allegedly siphoned from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and stashed in three banks in the country.
Out of the allegedly stolen $153.3m, a sum of N23,446, 300,000 was said to have been kept in Sterling Bank Plc, N9,080,000,000 in First Bank Plc and $5m in Access Bank Plc.
After ordering the temporary forfeiture of the monies to the Federal Government on Friday, Justice Muslim Hassan gave Sterling Bank and any other interested party 14 days to appear before him to prove the legitimacy of the monies, failing which the funds would be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The judge made the order in favour of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which appeared before him on Friday with an ex-parte application seeking the temporary forfeiture of the funds.
In a nine-paragraph affidavit filed in support of the ex parte application, an EFCC investigator, Moses Awolusi, claimed that the anti-graft agency discovered through its investigations how sometime in December 2014 Diezani invited a former Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Plc, Nnamdi Okonkwo, to her office where they hatched the plan of how a cash sum of $153,310,000 would be moved from NNPC to Okonkwo to be saved for Diezani.
According to Awolusi, Diezani instructed Okonkwo to ensure that the money was “neither credited into any known account nor captured in any transaction platforms” of Fidelity Bank.
Awolusi said Okonkwo accepted and implemented the deal leading to the movement of $153,310,000 from NNPC to Fidelity Bank.
He said two former Group Executive Directors of Finance and Account of NNPC, B.O.N. Otti and Stanley Lawson, helped Diezani to move the cash from NNPC, Abuja to the headquarters of Fidelity Bank in Lagos.
Awolusi said in a desperate bid to conceal the source of the money, Okonkwo, upon receiving it, instructed the Country Head of Fidelity Bank, Mr Martin Izuogbe, to take $113,310,000 cash out of the money to the Executive Director, Commercial and Institutional Bank, Sterling Bank Plc, Lanre Adesanya, to keep.
He said the remaining $40million was taken in cash to the Executive Director, Public Sector Accountant, First Bank, Dauda Lawal, to keep.
The investigator said out of the $113,310,000 handed over to Adesanya, a sum of $108,310,000 was invested in an off balance sheet investment using Sterling Asset Management Trustees Limited.
He said the $108,310,000 was subsequently changed to N23,446, 300,000 and saved in Sterling Bank.
Awolusi said the EFCC had recovered the N23.4bn in draft and had registered it as an exhibit marked, EFCC 01.
The investigator said the EFCC had also recovered another $5million out of the money kept with the MD of Access Bank Plc, Mr Herbert Wigwe.
He said the $5m was recovered in draft and had been registered as an exhibit marked, EFCC 02.
According to him, First Bank’s ED, Lawal, had converted the $40million kept with him to N9,080,000,000.
Awolusi, however, said that the EFCC had recovered that also in draft and registered it as Exhibit EFCC 03.
Moving the ex-parte application on Friday, the EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, urged Justice Hassan to order the temporary forfeiture of the funds to the Federal Government and to order Sterling Bank and Lawal, who were joined as defendants in the application, as well as any other interested parties, to appear in court within two weeks to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
Oyedepo, who said the application was brought pursuant to Section 17 of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act No. 14, 2006 and Section 44(2)(‘) of the 1999 Constitution, said granting the application was in the best interest of justice.
After hearing him out, Justice Hassan granted the order and adjourned till January 24, 2016 for the respondents to appear in court to show cause why the funds should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
A Federal High Court on Tuesday ordered the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure that his government, the governments of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former President Umaru Yar’adua and former President Goodluck Jonathan account fully for all recovered funds.
The Court sitting in Lagos declared that successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999 breached the fundamental Principles of Transparency and Accountability for failing to disclose details about the spending of recovered stolen public funds.
Justice Mohammed Idris made the order while delivering judgment in a Freedom of Information suit filed by a non-governmental organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
In an interview with Channels Television’s judiciary correspondent, Shola Soyele, SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, said the onus was now on the Accountant General of the Federation working closely with the Central Bank of Nigeria and other relevant organisations of the government to comply with the court’s order.
“The information we received was that certain recoveries were made from Abacha, some from Ibori and some other public servants.
“We are not able to see. For Abacha alone it was about six billion dollars. If such monies were recovered, we should be able to see on ground where those monies went in terms of expenditures.
“In spite of such recoveries, there has been no serious improvement on the road networks in Nigeria, nothing like improvement in the health facilities in Nigeria, the electricity system is still very comatose.
“That is why we think that whatever happens, this is a democracy, you must let the people know what going on. It is as simple as that,” Mr Mumuni said.
One of such recovered loots that Nigerians will like to know how it was utilised is the loot of a former military leader, General Sanni Abacha.
The National Economic Council had in December last year said the loots recovered from late General Abacha was $26.4 million and £19 million as at November.
President Muhammadu Buhari has arrived in the United States for that historic meeting with U.S President Barack Obama.
The President arrived at Andrew’s Air Force Base Sunday afternoon and is said to be lodging at the Blair Mansion, on Pennsylvania Avenue, in DC.
Earlier, a statement from the White House said that the U.S President is looking forward to President Buhari’s visit, during which both leaders will be discussing the menace of Boko Haram and how to tackle insurgency.
President Buhari is making this visit, accompanied by a 33-man delegation, who will hold consultations with their U.S counterparts, and other events, aimed at building strong Nigeria-U.S relations.
Also up for discussion during the visit is how the United States would help Nigeria track billions of stolen assets and increase U.S military assistance.
The visit has been seen as a seal on U.S improving ties with Nigeria since Buhari won the April presidential election.
The United States Government says it will offer help to Nigeria in tracking billions of dollars of stolen funds and assets.
The government also said that the United States’ military will offer assistance to Nigeria in the fight against Islamic militants.
A White House statement says that this is part of what is expected to feature during discussion between Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari and U.S. President, Barack Obama in Washington DC.
The cooperation between former President Goodluck Jonathan and the United States government had virtually grounded to a halt over issues, including the alleged refusal of Jonathan to investigate corruption and human rights abuses.
President Obama had long seen Nigeria as arguably the most important influential country in Sub-Saharan Africa and had always been willing to help Nigeria in counter terrorism training.
Since Buhari’s election, Washington is said to have committed 5 million dollars in new support for multi national task force to fight terrorism.
This is in addition to 34million dollars it had provided to Nigeria, Chad Cameroon and Niger for equipment and logistics.