The Switzerland Ambassador to Nigeria, Eric Mayoraz, Thursday in Abuja disclosed that his country is currently collaborating with the Nigerian government to trace and repatriate looted funds stashed in foreign lands.
Mayoraz, while noting that over $1bn looted by the late maximum ruler, General Sani Abacha, had been repatriated to Nigeria, confirmed that the balance of $322.5bn has been deposited with the Central Bank of Nigeria earlier in the year.
He spoke at the Forum on Asset Recovery hosted by the Swiss Embassy to discuss issues surrounding the Abacha asset recovery between the two countries with many non-governmental organisations and representatives of international agencies in attendance.
Although the envoy declined to reveal details of the funds that would likely be repatriated back to Nigeria, he explained that the ongoing efforts are geared towards getting a positive result in line with the Mutual Legal Persistence Request agreement signed between the two countries.
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His words: “All funds hidden in Swiss banks by Abacha were fully repatriated and so we don’t have any of such funds in Switzerland again. $752m was returned in 2005 and we discovered more and more in other banks and that involved the $322.5m that was repatriated earlier this year.”
Decrying what he termed lack of transparency in the Nigerian government’s handling of the funds, Mayoraz said the Swiss government insisted on the involvement of the World Bank in the management of the $322.5m to ensure that money was spent to alleviate the sufferings of the poor.
“Unfortunately, some of the assets that were returned, there was not so much transparency in it. So, we have to introduce the World Bank to get involved in this so that this particular one can be used by the Nigerian government with the monitoring of the World Bank”, he said.
In her contribution, the Special Assistant to the President on Justice Reform, Mrs. Juliet Ibebaku-Nwagwu, said the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has done a lot to engender the confidence of the Swiss government and other partners that the recovered assets would be deployed judiciously and transparently in line with the agreements reached.
She said the money would be deployed to service the Social Investment Scheme which is also an existing World Bank project.
“Let me just say this, we just want our money back. By this administration’s commitment to open government partnership, we want the people to be involved in the monitoring of the stolen assets that were returned. We also came up with the open budget process so that Nigerians would know every budget details and they can be checked online too.
“We also want our procurement system to be more transparent than it was in the past so that any concerned persons can know who is getting what. In addition to this is the introduction of the Single Treasury Account and the Ease of Doing Business policy. It is part of the openness of this administration to constructive engagements that we have a line item called Revenue from Asset Recovery in the budget of 2017 and 2018”, she said.
According to the Executive Director of African Network for Environment and Economic Justice, Mr. David Ugolor, there was a need to monitor the deployment of all recovered assets to “ensure that they are properly used for what they are meant for in Nigeria.”
He said the civil society organisations would not relent in their efforts to compel the government to operate within the bounds of the agreements signed with the countries that repatriated the funds.