The Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), has said he has no record of the amount of money stolen by the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha.
The AGF added that he would not also know about $5bn Abacha loot allegedly recovered between 1999 and 2015 and how the money was spent.
Malami said this in response to a Freedom of Information (SERAP) request sent to his office by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, demanding accountability on recovered $5bn Abacha loot.
SERAP had asked the Federal Government to make known to Nigerians “details of projects executed with the Abacha loot and their locations; details of companies and contractors involved in the execution of any such projects; details of all the agreements on the loot, the roles played by the World Bank and other actors, as well as the implementation status of all projects since 1999.”
In a statement on Sunday, SERAP’s Deputy Director, Kolawole Oludare, said the AGF had responded to the group’s request via a February 26 letter.
Oludare quoted Malami to have said, “We have searched our records and the information on the exact amount of public funds stolen by Abacha and how recovered loot was spent from 1999 to 2015 is not held by the ministry.”
The AGF stressed that he was not in possession of “records of the exact amount of public funds stolen by a former military head of state, Sani Abacha, and no records of the spending of about $5bn recovered loot for the period between 1999 and 2015.
“However, a total of $322m was recovered from Switzerland in January 2018 and the funds were used for the Social Investment Project. Also, $308m was recovered from the Island of Jersey in collaboration with the USA. While awaiting the transfer of the money to Nigeria, it has been designated for the following projects: Lagos-Ibadan Expressway; Abuja-Kano Expressway, and the Second Niger Bridge.”
But Oludare said SERAP was dissatisfied with the AGF’s response.
Oluwadare said, “The failure to provide information on the exact amount stolen by Abacha and on spending of recovered loot for the period between 1999 and 2015 implicitly amounts to a refusal by the government.
“The government also failed to provide sufficient details on the spending and planned spending of the $630m it said it recovered since 2018.
“In the circumstances and given that Mrs Zainab Ahmed has failed and/or refused to respond to our FoI request, we are finalising the papers for legal actions under the FoI Act to compel the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to fully and effectively comply with our requests.”
SERAP recalled that “a special panel set up on July 23, 1998 by the former head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, to probe the late military dictator General Sani Abacha stated that he stole over $5bn between 1993 and 1998 when he was in power. Much of the stolen public funds have been returned to Nigeria.
“The report by the panel shows that the government recovered some $635m, £75m, DM 30m and N9bn as well as several vehicles and properties in Abuja, Lagos and Kano together with 40 per cent interests in West African Refinery in Sierra Leone. Other assets were recovered from the Abacha family and associates.
“Furthermore, former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration also reportedly recovered over $2bn of Abacha loot. Mr Obasanjo would seem to confirm this fact when he stated in the second volume of his book titled My Watch that: ‘by the time I left office in May 2007, over $2bn and £100m had been recovered from the Abacha family abroad, and N10bn in cash and properties locally.’
“Similarly, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration reportedly recovered $226.3m and €7.5m from Liechtenstein. Some £22.5m was also recovered from the Island of Jersey while $322m and £5.5m from the Abacha loot were reportedly returned to the government.
“The government of President Muhammadu Buhari has also recovered several millions of dollars of Abacha loot since assuming office in May 2015, including $321m from Switzerland, and $300m from the US and Jersey.”