2 November 2017

Nigeria: Looted Funds - Govt Shifts Focus to International Recoveries

Photo: Premium Times
Sani Abacha.

The federal government has concluded plans to shift focus on recovery of looted funds to the international community.

Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), disclosed this yesterday after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa.

Recently, Malami said the government had concluded negotiation with Switzerland on the return of $321 million recovered from family of late head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha.

The AGF also said Nigeria recently recovered the sum of $86 million from the controversial Malabu Restrained Funds from United Kingdom.

Speaking to State House correspondents, he said the federal government had been making efforts to recover stolen funds and assets, noting that the efforts have been yielding fruits, particularly as it relates to local recoveries.

According to him, the council approved a memo to shift the focus to international recoveries.

He said, "As you are aware, the federal government has been making efforts to recover stolen funds, loot, assets and the efforts have indeed been yielding fruits, particularly as it relates to local recoveries.

"A memo has been presented to council this afternoon by the office of the Attorney General, which is intended to shift focus to international recovery. Before going into the memo, I think it is important to bring to your attention that about a week ago, we succeeded in recovering 85million dollars relating to Malabu issues from U.K.

"Now, there exist a forum that is Global Assets Recovery Forum taking place in December in US and we are looking towards that. We are in agreement substantially with Swiss for the recovery of additional sum of 321million dollars.

"That memorandum of understanding has been substantially agreed between Nigeria and Swiss. We intend to now execute or to sign off the agreement during the global forum on assets recovery coming up in December".

Malami said the intention of the memo is to seek the approval of the council to allow the Attorney General to sign the agreement on behalf of the government of the federation of Nigeria.

He added that the second reason is to develop an instrument of ratification, which will now give the Attorney General the powers to ensure the repatriation of the funds.

"It is collectively agreed upon between Nigeria and Swiss that we on our own part should seek the approval of council to ratify the MoU as agreed, and they on their own part too should procure the instrument of ratification that will now give the respective officers of the two countries the desired power and effect to now sign off on the agreement. The memo has accordingly been agreed and approved by the council".

He said the implication is that the MoU as negotiated between Nigeria and Swiss has been agreed and ratified by council and the Attorney General has been mandated to execute the agreement that will see to the repatriation of the 321million dollars.

N450m Fraud: Court Dismisses Alison-Madueke Application For Trial In Nigeria

A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday dismissed an application brought by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, urging the court to compel the federal government to bring her back to Nigeria from the United Kingdom to face trial.

Diezani had approached the court praying it okay the facilitation of her return to defend a criminal charge bordering on alleged laundering of N450 million.

The judge of the court, Justice Rilwan Aikawa, dismissed the application of the former minister for lack of merit and held that he would not be used to frustrate the former minister's trial in the United Kingdom.

The judge specifically described the application as bizarre and an abuse of court process, insisting that he would not allow himself to be used to frustrate Diezani's imminent trial in the United Kingdom where she is currently being investigated on bail.

He also maintained that having not been listed as a defendant in the charge, there is no offence yet being made against the former minister, as she is "merely crying wolf where there is none".

Justice Aikawa further noted that Mrs. Alison-Madueke did not also deny the claims of the EFCC that she is currently on bail in the UK where she is being investigated for several financial crimes and her filing of the application was merely a ploy to escape justice in the U.K.

The judge also held that this was not the proper time to join the former minister as a defendant in the trial and that the court lacks the power to interfere with the powers of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).

Mrs. Alison-Madueke had sought to be joined as a defendant in the N450 million fraud charge slammed on a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dele Belgore and a former Minister of Planning, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman, by the EFCC.

The embattled former Minister had prayed the court to compel the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) to bring her back from the United Kingdom, where she has been since 2015 to put up her defence in the case.In a five count amended charge, Diezani was alleged to have conspired with Belgore and Sulaiman on or about March 27, 2015, to directly take possession of the sum of N450 million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of unlawful act.

The trio were alleged to have taken the said funds in cash, which exceeded the amount authorized by law, without going through any financial institutions.

Belgore and Sulaiman were also alleged to have paid the sum of N50 million to one, Sheriff Shagaya, without going through any bank.

The offences are said to be contrary to Sections 18(a), 15(2)(d), 1(a), 16(d) and punishable under Sections 15(3) and 4, 16 (2)(b), and 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.

Looters Trial: NJC Receives 1,124 Corruption Cases

Meanwhile, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onneghen, said yesterday that the National Judicial Council (NJC) has so far received 1,124 corruption cases from various jurisdictions.

Onnoghen disclosed this in Abuja at the inauguration of the Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO).

The CJN said the cases were received from the jurisdictions in compliance to NJC directive.

He said, "The Heads of Court were directed to compile and submit a compendium of corruption cases being handled by their various jurisdictions.

"I also directed them to designate a court or more in their jurisdictions, depending on the volume of such cases, solely for the trial of such cases".

The CJN advised members of the committee to help eliminate delays and its attendant effects on the speedy disposal of corruption cases.

He continued: "Needless to say that the nation expects so much from this committee, going by the avalanche of positive responses and recommendations that have greeted its setting up. We therefore must do all we can to justify this high level of public confidence reposed in the committee.

"The committee is expected to among other things propose practical directions for my consideration and approval in order to complement the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA)".

Onnoghen restated his admonitions to both prosecution and defense counsel to shun all unethical antics being deployed to delay corruption cases.

The NJC had on October 31 appointed a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Suleiman Galadima, as the new chairman of the committee.

Justice Galadima was appointed by the council to replace retired Justice Ayo Salami who excused himself from the committee as the chairman, after initially accepting to serve.

Members of the committee are Chief Judges of Borno State, Justice Kashim Zannah; Imo State, Justice P.O. Nnadi; Delta State, Justice Marshal Umukoro; and Oyo State, Justice M. L. Abimbola.

Also named among the members are the current President of the Nigeria Bar Association, Mr Abubakar Mahmoud and some of his predecessors - Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), Mr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Mr Joseph Daudu (SAN) and Mr. Augustine Alegeh (SAN).

Others include two members of the NJC, Dr Garba Tetengi (SAN) and Mrs. R.I. Inga; representative, Non-Governmental Organisations, representative, Ministry of Justice, and the representative, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria.

The Secretary of NJC, Gambo Saleh, will serve as the secretary of the committee.

Dasuki Declines To Testify In Metuh's Case

Fßormer National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), has declined to testify in the on-going trial of former national publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Oliseh Metuh.

Dasuki was brought to court through a subpoenaed order to serve as the eight-defense witness in charges of corruption leveled against Metuh by the economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

In his defence, Metuh had told the court that the N400million for which he is being prosecuted was given to him through the office of NSA on the instruction of former President Goodluck Jonathan towards media campaign for PDP during 2015 Presidential election.

When Dasuki was called to the witness box by the defense counsel, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), yesterday, he told the court that it would be difficult for him to answer any question, considering that he has been in detention since 2015 and has not been able to consult his records with regards to any transaction with the defendant.

He said, "I know the functions of the office of NSA. It is essentially a principal staff officer in the office of the President.

"I am here to answer to subpoena issued by this court, even though I have not benefitted from other court rulings. It will be very difficult for me to give any details on money given to Metuh and the second defendant (Destra Investment Limited) without reference to my records. Three years is a long time even for those who believe we are still young".

Dasuki was subsequently asked the length of time he considered appropriate to come and give evidence.

At this point, he told the court that he had been in detention and that he can only give evidence when he is granted bail as ordered by four different courts and ECOWAS court.

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