From: Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Federal government said it would use the $321 million stolen funds recovered from Switzerland on social protection programmes, while calling on Civil Society Organisations and the media to monitor the use
Senior Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Justice Reform and Open Government Partnership (OGP), Mrs. Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu, disclosed this in an interview with Daily Sun, in Abuja.
The money is said to be part of the over US$2.2 billion allegedly stolen by the late former head of state, Sani Abacha, when he presided over the nation between 1993 and 1998.
The money was originally deposited in Luxembourg, but was confiscated by a Swiss court in late 2014 and in March last year the two states signed an agreement on its repatriation.
The Attorney General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had revealed that negotiation with Switzerland on the return of $321 million recovered from the late Abacha family had been concluded.
Malami stressed further that with the conclusion of negotiation, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be signed by parties at the Global Forum on Assets Recovery meeting coming up on December 4 to 6 in Washington and that the repatriation would follow within weeks as agreed by the parties.
Speaking with Daily Sun after an interactive session with Open Government Partnership Nigeria and Civil Society Organisations, Ibekaku-Nwagwu expressed the need for said CSO and the media to hold government accountable.
“It is important that CSO and the Media should be able to have the capacity to continue to hold government accountable on all fronts.
“OGP encourages government to implement transparency measures as well as citizens participation in governance. The whole idea is that citizens should looked into every budget to understand what government is doing and to be part of governance.
“And so what President Buhari did in May 2016, was to sign into Open Government Partnership Initiative (OGPI) and by so doing committing Nigeria to the principles of transparency, accountability and citizenship participation.
“And when he signed into it, Nigeria committed to physical transparency framework and anti-corruption, access to information and citizen engagement.
“Within these five or six thematic areas, we have open budgeting framework, open contracting framework and we agreed on transparency in the extracting sector, transparency in Revenue as well as improving the ease of doing business.
“The other critical components of that commitment is transparency in the recovery and management of recovered assets, especially stolen assets. And that is why we have CSO as key partners in monitoring that aspect.
“It is important that CSO and the Media to have the capacity to continue to hold government accountable in all fronts.
“Recently, we attend the Global Forum on Assets Recovery in Washington D.C. And CSOs from Nigeria were part of government delegation where Nigeria signed an MoU with Switzerland and World Bank on the return of the $321 million.
“We urged the CSO and the Media to monitor the funds which Nigeria has agreed to invest in social development, particularly in the cash transfer programme that the president is ready to implement.”
She revealed that the cash transfer programme will be managed with the World Bank and CSO.
According to her, “the idea is that CSO will have all the information to be able to know who and who is benefiting from the funds, who and who are actually poor and who are benefiting.”
The interactive session proper was to review the progress report presented by the National Secretariat and discuss the role CSOs and Media played in the progress made so far.