BY MARK ITSIBOR, Abuja
The Presidency yesterday said it is concluding plans, latest by December, with the Switzerland Government for the repatriation of $321m looted from Nigeria.
The Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Justice Reforms, Mrs Juliet Ibekaku, made the disclosure at the Conversation on Anti-corruption Campaign organised by the Centre for Democratic Development in Abuja.
She said that before now, Nigeria had no agreement or Memoranda of Understanding with foreign countries for the return of looted money.
The development she necessitated why it took Nigeria awhile to initiate the process of discussion and recovery at the international level.
“So far, we have recovered part of the Malabu fund held by the UK courts.
“We are also working to finalise the process for the return of $321m and by December, we are going to sign the MoU for the return of the money held in Switzerland.
“I am happy to also note here that some Civil Society Organisations working in the area of asset recovery were involved in the negotiation of the MOU and will be involved in monitoring the assets.
“This is to ensure that the returned funds are managed in a transparent manner as other recovery plans continue in countries like UK, Island of Jersey and France,’’ she said.
Ibekaku said that the Federal Government had also opened up discussion with the US government for the return of the money that left that country for two or three years from 2013.
The Presidential aide said that an example of such money was the Diepreye Alamieyeseigha’s money, adding that different fronts were being opened up for the recovery of the money.
She said that the money recovery mission was hinged on the Open Government Partnership Initiative which was committed to four thematic areas: Transparency, Anti-corruption, Access to information, Citizen Engagement and Empowerment.
She said the government had set up one asset recovery account which made it easy for anybody that wanted to track recovered money to know where the money was going to.
According to her, this put to rest worry by Nigerians over the whereabouts of the recovered money, thinking the money was not being accounted for or managed properly.
Ibekaku said that over the years, it was identified that there was a problem with the management of recovered money, both domestically and internationally, because there was no way to account for it.
She said that when this administration came to power, the president set up a presidential assets recovery committee to monitor what was going on with recovered assets from the agencies.
Ibekaku said that the presidential committee, in turn, set the Assets Tracing subcommittee, adding that work was ongoing to determine where this money went as from 2012.
She said that the administration also created a central account in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), called the Asset Recovery Account.
The presidential aide said the president also directed all the law enforcement agencies to put all recovered money in the central account.
Ibekaku said that the president also directed that asset recovery should now be ploughed into the budget to fund part of it, starting from 2017 “so that is what the money is being used for.
She said all the money being recovered by anti-corruption agencies would go into such to fund part of the budget.
The Executive Director of CDD, Ms Idayat Hassan, said that the event was organized with support from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa and the Department for International Development.
According to her, the event is getting answers to some questions on the recovered money.
Hassain said that it was obvious that tackling corruption remained one of President Buhari’s main priorities.
She said it was in line with the presidents’ vision that the event was organised, to provide a platform for constructive review and interrogate government’s approach to anti-graft campaign.
The executive director said the platform also sought to proffer alternative opinions for robust, effective and sustained interventions in the anti-corruption fight and effective usage of the recovered money.
She called on the government to make more open to Nigerians the amount recovered so far and how the money was being spent to ensure much confidence from the people in its programmes and policies.
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