Nigeria: U.S. to Return Millions Stolen By Nigeria Dictator Abacha

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama deliver statements to the press, at the Department of State, in Washington D.C., on February 4, 2020.

Abuja — The United States (US) is to return to Nigeria more than $309 million stolen by former military dictator Sani Abacha in the 1990s.

This follows the US Department of State signing an agreement with the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Nigerian government for the recovery of the money.

"More than 20 years later, these assets are being returned to the Nigerian people," said Department of State spokesperson, Morgan Ortagus.

According to officials, the funds will be used by the Nigerian Independent Sovereign Authority for three infrastructure projects in strategic economic zones across the country.

To ensure the funds are used responsibly, the agreement includes mechanisms for monitoring the implementation of these projects as well as external oversight.

Nigeria must repay any funds lost as a result of any new corruption or fraud to the account established to hold the returned assets.

Ortagus said the return of the looted funds reflected the growing international consensus that countries must work together to ensure stolen assets are returned in a transparent and accountable manner.

It is also consistent with the commitments by US and Nigeria under the principles agreed to at the 2017 Global Forum on Asset Recovery co-hosted by the US and United Kingdom.

The US has endorsed Nigeria's fight against corruption under President Muhammadu Buhari, in power since 2015.

"The fight against corruption is an investment in the future of Nigeria," Ortagus said.

Nigeria's Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) welcomed the efforts by government to repatriate the stolen assets abroad.

"CISLAC and our Nigerian and international partners have long been campaigning for unconditional and swift repatriation of Nigerian and African wealth stolen by kleptocratic leaders aided by the international financial enablers," CISLAC director, Auwal Ibrahim Musa, said.

Abacha was in power from 1993 to 1998.

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