Abacha loot: CSOs urge Nigeria, France to uphold assets recovery laws
By Abdullahi Alhassan, Kaduna
The France chapters of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Transparency International (TI) have jointly called on Nigeria and France to uphold asset recovery laws ahead of the return of $150 million looted by late Nigeria’s Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.
In a statement co-signed by the CISLAC Executive Director, Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, and Sara Brimbeuf, Transparency International TI’s Head of Illicit Financial Flows Programme in France, the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) urged the Nigerian government to be vigilant about misappropriation of the funds.
The decision to return $150 million from France to Nigeria was announced during the launch of the Global Forum on Asset Recovery Action Series.
The anti-corruption watchdogs, in the statement titled: ‘$150M Abacha Loot: Time for France and Nigeria to Uphold Asset Recovery Laws’, posed questions about the commencement of negotiations between France and Nigeria, the criteria for selecting projects or programmes funded by the returned funds and the inclusion of civil society organizations in the return process.
“France, despite not having returned confiscated assets previously, has recently established a legal framework for asset restitution, emphasizing transparency and accountability principles.
“The statement emphasized that the impending restitution presents an opportunity for both France and Nigeria to implement their respective legal frameworks, ensuring transparency and accountability in the return process, with active involvement from civil society organizations,” the statement noted.
The CSOs noted that Nigeria’s extensive experience in asset return, having recovered over $4 billion from different jurisdictions over the past three decades.
“While commendable for efforts in repatriation, Nigeria faces challenges in the transparent and accountable management of these assets.
“The recent adoption of the Proceeds of Crime (Recovery and Management) Act 2022 is seen as a positive step, assigning roles and responsibilities to relevant institutions and providing a provision for civil society to monitor implementation.
“The return process is part of proceedings initiated in the United States in 2014, where a court entered judgment forfeiting approximately $500 million linked to money laundering involving Abacha’s corruption.
“As part of the same proceedings, an agreement was secured in February 2020 for the return of $311.7 million, proposed for financing road infrastructure projects,” the statement noted.
The statement stressed the significance of the upcoming restitution, portraying it as an excellent chance for both France and Nigeria to demonstrate commitment to transparency and accountability in asset recovery, setting a model for other destination countries.