Nigeria and Switzerland on Tuesday, March 8, 2016, have reached an agreement to return $321 million in public funds stolen by the former military ruler Sani Abacha, on the condition that the funds will be used to implement projects that will benefit Nigerians.
Both countries said the “letter of intent” to return the money provided a framework to help recover other looted funds by corrupt officials and to determine how it would be spent once repatriated.
It is $321m that we are looking at repatriating to Nigeria and the modalities are basically legal framework for that, mutual legal assistance framework that we are trying to put in place and there are pre-conditions that are also in place already and this requires monitoring mechanism.
So, we have to agree beforehand as a pre-condition on what the money would be used for and the World Bank would be part of the monitoring process to ensure that the money is used for the benefit of Nigerian people.
The Swiss Minister said the fight against corruption was “one of Switzerland’s priorities” and the letter of intent “confirmed the principle of returning stolen assets monitored by the World Bank.”
He also added;
This monitoring is a legal requirement to ensure that the funds can indeed be returned to Nigeria and used, as set out in the agreement, to support social programmes to assist the people of Nigeria.
The Swiss diplomat also said his country will continue to help Nigeria cater for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North.
Vice President Osinbajo responding in an emailed statement said;
We guarantee that recovered assets would be put to uses for which they have been intended.
The framework will guarantee that returned assets will be used in the interest of the people of this country.
Abacha was Nigeria’s military ruler from 1993 until his death in 1998, and is suspected of having siphoned off $2.2 billion from Nigeria’s central bank in what the United States has called “brazen acts of kleptocracy.”
The head of Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Didier Burkhalter, said Switzerland was the first country to have returned a share of Abacha’s ill-gotten wealth.
Ten years ago, some $720 million was returned to Nigeria, he said in a statement on the Swiss foreign affairs website.
The $321 million was initially deposited in Luxembourg but confiscated by a court in Geneva in December 2014.