Earlier this month a team of prosecutors from the US led Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative in partnership with the FBI, secured an agreement for the repatriation of some $311.7 Million in assets to the people of Nigeria, which had been previously stolen by former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and his associates.
Former dictator Abacha seized power in the 1993 Nigerian coup d’etat and he remained military head of state in Nigeria until his death in 1998. His rule was plagued by a number of human rights abuses along with a rapid expansion of corruption in his government.
The Department of Justice’s announcement explains that the US has agreed to ‘repatriate assets the United States forfeited that were traceable to the kleptocracy of former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha’. Indeed, General Abacha along with his associates misappropriated and extorted billions from the government and the people of Nigeria and used US financial institutions to launder this money along with investing in US backed bonds.
The recovery of these funds is excellent news for two reasons. It demonstrates the US commitment to asset recovery from countries that have struggled with institutionalised corruption. It is also especially good news considering the US is seeking to lead the fight in asset recovery whilst battling its waning position as the global democratic hegemon.
The repatriation of funds will stand to benefit the Nigerian people. The funds are to be used to support infrastructure projects in Nigeria, including the second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan expressway and the Abuja-Kano road.
The agreement between the US and Nigeria extends this further by ensuring ‘key measures [are in place] to ensure transparency and accountability, including administration of funds and projects by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority, financial review by an independent auditor and monitoring by an independent civil society’. The agreement is underpinned by this transparency and accountability as the recovered assets are made available when evidence of where the funds are being spent is presented, thus limiting the potential for the perpetuation of corruption.
The $311.7 million represents a significant slice of the asset recovery pie. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is pursing the forfeiture of an additional $30 million in assets in the UK and $144 in France. The release of these assets will require coordination and collaboration between the Justice systems to achieve this. However in doing so, the Nigerian people stand to gain from development, investment and progression in their lands, which was wrongfully denied to them by the corruption of General Abacha.
The full announcement from the US Department of Justice can be found here.
By Gregory Collis , Junior Consultant at Lysis Group