Friday, April 19, 2024

No Abacha loot for Bagudu, says AGF

The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said on Saturday the repatriated money  looted by the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, would be used for the development of critical infrastructure.

Malami said in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations, Dr Umar Gwandu,  there was no form of agreement to hand over $100m out of the latest tranche of the recovered $300m Abacha loot to Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu or any third party interest.

He said  Bagudu was pursuing separate cases in court in the United States and the United Kingdom to assert his right in connection with the Abacha loot.

He also  said  Nigeria was also cooperating with the US in the recovery of  other assets “including corruption proceeds linked to ex-Petroleum Resources Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke and her associates, and former Delta State Governor James Ibori as well as several others.”

The United States Department of Justice had alleged that the President, Major General  Muhammadu Buhari, was planning to hand over about $100m out of the Abacha loot to Bagudu.

The Department of Justice made the claim in court  documents  filed before the District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington, according to Bloomberg’s reports.

Bagudu, who is a close ally of Buhari, was indicted by the US Government for helping Abacha to transfer billions of dollars in the mid-90s.

According to documents from the Department of Justice, Bagudu spent six months in detention in Texas while awaiting extradition to the Island of Jersey.

However, before he was handed over for criminal trial in Jersey, he was said to have quickly agreed to return $163m to Nigeria and was released on bond to Nigeria where he was meant to be prosecuted for money laundering.

In his second reaction within 24 hours to the widely reported plans by the Buhari regime to hand over $100m to Bagudu, Malami said the money would be used for infrastructural projects as agreed with the countries it was recovered.

The AGF restated the money would be used for the  Abuja-Kano Road,  2nd Niger Bridge and the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.

He described as “mischievous and pedestrian for anyone to seek to turn the law and the facts on its head on the matter of repatriation whose terms are clearly spelt out and agreed among the parties.”

He stated, “This long-standing cooperation recently culminated in the successful signing of memorandum of understanding for the repatriation of over $300m looted assets associated with General Sani Abacha.

“It is pertinent to recall at this juncture that prior to the 2020 agreement with the United States and Island of Jersey, the Federal Government has signed an agreement for the return  of  over $300m in 2017 which was effectively deployed for the purpose for which it was agreed to be applied without any issue of reputation

“The FG is also negotiating the recovery of assets from several countries and the agreements for the recovery and the procedure for recovery are always presented to Federal Executive Council for approval and duly made public once the processes have been concluded.

“No third-party interest was captured in the memo that was approved by the council.

“The 2017 repatriated funds were deployed to the implementation of the Social Investment program and it  is being monitored by civil society organisations across the country.”

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He  said  the FG “remains fully committed to continued cooperation with the US and other countries in a reciprocal manner.”

On the Bagudu’s link to the money, Malami said, “It is well known that the US and the Bagudu family have been in court since 2014 over assets already rescinded under the 2003 Agreement.

“The matters are to be determined in  UK and  US courts.

“The Bagudu family assets in contention, which constitute a distinct and separate cause of action, do not have anything to do with the assets already recovered and being recovered under the Abacha 2014 non-prosecution agreement.”

M’Belt, Southern leaders demand probe

Also,  the  Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum called for a judicial probe of an allegation that the FG was planning to give Bagudu  $100m out of the  Abacha loot.

The group said the development had called for urgent investigations.

In a  statement on Saturday by Yinka Odumakin, Collins Ihekire, Senator Bassey and Dr Isuwa Dogo, the SMBLF said the allegations that the government had been frustrating attempts to recover part of the looted funds allegedly traced to Bagudu were worrisome and must not be ignored.

They  said, “The feeble denial by the Presidency does not cut it for us. We do not accept the American government can be declined as corruption fighting back as this regime is wont to slander all those who call it to account locally.

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