As the G7 meet in Germany, the Nigeria Network on Stolen Assets has written to the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, asking him to mobilise its members to reject the controversial secret agreements by the immediate past Goodluck Jonathan administration with the late Sani Abacha family on the $980million stolen funds recovered and repatriated by the Swiss government to Nigeria.
The letter also asked the UK government and the G7 to continue supporting the Nigerian government to recover all looted assets held in Western banks and offshore centres as well as establish mechanisms for effective civil society oversight, to ensure transparency and accountability for all returned funds.
The network on stolen assets said the Nigerian government’s agreement with Mr. Abacha’s family sets a strong precedence for impunity and grand corruption and erodes the rights of civil society to hold government accountable. The organisation
if the G7 rejects the agreement, it would send a strong warning to other administrations that the international community has zero tolerance for such arrangement.
The convener of the organisation, David Ugolor, welcomed the invitation of President Muhammadu Buhari to the G7 summit, but expressed concern that the G7 and the Nigerian government appeared to have made mistakes that seem to significantly weaken its implementation of the agreement of the stolen funds recovered in 2005.
Specifically, Mr. Ugolor condemned the secrecy around the handling of a total of $980million recovered from Abacha family and repatriated from Switzerland to Nigeria, saying the immunity from prosecution granted by the government was undermining the fight against corruption.
Mr. Ugolor, who is also the Executive Director, Africa Network for Environment & Economic Justice, said monitoring the use of the $500million in 2005 by the Nigerian government revealed a lack of transparency and accountability in the repatriation process and led to a “re-looting” of the loot.
The secret deal between the Nigerian government and the Abachas sealed in July 2014 granted members of the dictator’s family perpetual immunity against arrest and prosecution by government in lieu of a fraction of billions of stolen funds returned to Nigeria.
The deal masterminded by the immediate past Nigerian Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, and approved by Mr. Jonathan, also foreclosed criminal charges against the plunderers of the country’s economy and their accomplices.
The network on stolen wealth, involved in the campaign for the repatriation of stolen assets and revenue transparency in Nigeria and consisting of academics, experts and members of non-governmental organizations, expressed concern over the deal.
“We are deeply concerned that immunity agreements with former leaders who have engaged in grand corruption set a very bad precedent in the fight against corruption and will prevent Nigeria from fully coming to terms with the damage inflicted by grand corruption,” the group said in the letter to Mr. Cameron.
“Today, we are worried that over a decade after the G8 and Nigeria collaborated in a Compact to Promote Transparency and Combat corruption in what was hailed as a ‘new partnership’, the tracing, tracking and repatriation of the country’s looted assets is still on a snail pace just as corruption is more rife in public and private institutions than it was in 2005,” the group lamented.
Nigeria’s rating on the Transparency International Index, the group noted, has remained poor, with the country recording below average score in the Mo Ibrahim Index of African governance, in terms of the application of the rule of law, accountability, public management processes, the development of the rural sector, education and health.
The civil society group also wants the G7 to support President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in fulfilling its promise to ensure a transparent public procurement processes in Nigeria.
It also called for support to Mr. Buhari in deepening institutional reforms of the anti-graft agencies, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, and the Code of Conduct Bureau to help perform their functions.
Acknowledging UK’s pivotal role along with other members of the G7 countries in establishing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, as well as other global efforts to combat corruption and illicit finances, the group recalled the efforts that led to the debt relief granted Nigeria by the Paris and London Clubs in 2006.
During the July 2005 G-8 Summit held in Scotland, the group said, members had agreed to a $31bn debt deal that saw the cancellation of Nigeria’s $18bn external debt to the Paris Club after the payment of about $12.124bn and $7bn owed to London Club of creditors.
The debt relief, the group noted, saw Nigeria among the first signatories to the EITI principles, with the establishment of NEITI to assist with the introduction of reforms in the country’s budgetary systems.
The group commended the UK government’s support to Nigeria in the build-up to the recent general elections, which it said culminated in free, fair and credible polls.
Signatories to the letter included the Executive Director, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project; Adetokunbo Mumuni; Deputy Executive Director; Leo Atakpun and National Coordinator, Procurement Observation, West Africa Civil Society forum; Salaudeen Hashim; Zero- Corruption Coalition; Adekunle Lukman, and Advocacy Initiative; Mohammed Attah.
Others included the Co convener, Say No Campaign Nigeria, Ezenwa Nwagwu; Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere; Public Policy Analyst, Spaces for Change, Nigeria, Ndutimobong Enang; National Coordinator, Publish What You Pay Nigeria Campaign, Faith Nwadishi; Chairman, Civil Society Network Against Corruption; Olanrewaju Surajun and the Co-Convener, Development Alliance for Niger Delta; Tony Abolo and Executive Chairman, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders; Debo Adeniran.