The Federal government has repatriated more than $1 billion stashed away by Gen. Sani Abacha, the late Nigerian Head of State, in Switzerland, while Swiss government says “there is no more loot left in the country.”
Eric Mayoraz, the Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, made the declaration at a ceremony hosted by the embassy to examine asset recovery efforts between Nigeria and Switzerland, using the ‘Abacha loot’ as a focus.
Mayoraz stated that Switzerland had earlier returned to Nigeria $752 million, which the late dictator and family stashed away in Swiss banks and recently repatriated another $321 million, which is being domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
The Ambassador announced that with new legislation already put in place in his country, it would be impossible to steal Nigeria’s money and stash it away in any part of Switzerland.
“As a way out of what led to Abacha loot, we have signed a Mutual Legal Assistance treaty with Nigeria and it is meant to enable us to track and expose those who want to bring in illicit wealth and prosecute them in accordance with the laws in place,” Mayoraz said.
“It is to be made clear that the new laws in Switzerland do not allow for any stolen wealth to be kept in any place in the country,” the ambassador added.
Abubakar Malami, the Attorney General of the Federation, admitted the receipt of the last tranche of $321 million of the Abacha loot from the Swiss government, adding that it had been domiciled with the Nigerian apex bank for the purpose of using it to empower the poor and vulnerable in Nigeria.
Malami, who was represented by Mrs. Juliet Ibebaku-Nwagwa, the Special Assistant to the President on Justice Reforms, explained that Nigeria and the World Bank agreed to use the Abacha loot to fund the National Cash Transfer Scheme, so it could benefit the entire country since the money belongs to the whole country.
The minister explained that necessary processes as stipulated by the World Bank and other organisations as conditions for drawing down the Abacha loot from Switzerland are being strictly implemented to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of the cash.
He said that although the process of drawing down the money from the Swiss Government was not smooth, President Buhari insisted all the same that all the processes stipulated must be adhered to and a central agency put in place to recover the money and put mechanism in place for managing the funds.
Mrs. Maryam Uwais, the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment, who was represented by Linda Ekeator, Manager Legal, National Social Investments Office, said that the cash transfer scheme had been set up in no fewer than 19 states of the federation and that more states would soon join the scheme.
According to her, over 270,000 households had been captured under the scheme while the transfer of the $321 Abacha loot to beneficiaries of the programme would start in July.
A member of Civil Society groups, working with the Swiss and Nigerian governments to monitor the return and use of the Abacha loot, and Executive Director of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, Rev. David Ugolor, said that civil society groups would ensure that the looted funds are properly accounted for, promptly returned to Nigeria and effectively managed and utilised for the overall best interest of Nigerians who are the victims of corruption.