The decision by the Island of Jersey and the United States of America to repatriate an additional $321million looted by the late head of state, Sani Abacha is a clear vote of confidence by the international community on the Buhari administration.
This, according to the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO), is because the administration spent the first tranche of the returned loot on the ‘poorest of the poor’, in line with the conditions tied to the return of the fund by Switzerland during the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari.
In a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke, BMO noted that this is a clear departure from the preceding Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) years in office when repatriated funds were re-looted by top government officials.
“That was the first time since 1999 that Nigerians had a fair knowledge of how a tranche of the repatriated Abacha loot amounting to $322.5m was disbursed under the Conditional Cash Transfer scheme of the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) to 30,778 beneficiary households.
“At the time, Switzerland entered into an agreement with the Buhari administration, it was common knowledge at the international stage that previously repatriated funds were re-looted.
“This is why civil society groups led by the African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) were empowered by the international community, through the Monitoring of Recovered Assets through Transparency and Accountability MANTRA project, to keep a close watch on the disbursement of the recovered fund to the target beneficiaries.
“Like many Nigerians, we are aware that one PDP-era Finance minister said in 2007 that a total of $2.5bn was recovered and spent on projects in a number of ministries including Power, Works, Health, Education and Water Resources.
“And in June 2014, Liechtenstein returned $227m of the Abacha loot but there is no concrete proof, until recently, that recovered stolen funds were used on victims of corruption in Nigeria.
“So it is gratifying that the second tranche of $321m to be received from the Island of Jersey and the US would be spent on critical infrastructure including the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the Second Niger Bridge and the Abuja-Kano Expressway.
“These are projects that anyone using in the future would remember as infrastructure that a chunk of stolen public fund recovered from a former head of state was spent on”.
BMO expressed the conviction that public funds stolen in the PDP years would, on being recovered, be utilised on tangible projects and people-oriented initiatives.
“The renewed commitment of the Buhari administration as expressed in the activities of the anti-graft agencies in going after corrupt officials and their cronies is a good one.
“Many Nigerians are now confident that a number of these people, including those who are fugitives from the law, would end up having illicit assets and cash stashed in safe havens forfeited to the country.
“We are also satisfied with President Buhari’s directive that assets recovered from thieving public officials, locally and internationally, are to be sold off in a transparent manner to ensure that they are not re-looted in the future.”
The pro-Buhari group also challenged PDP and its leaders to prove that more than $3bn Abacha loot was not re-looted by government officials during the party’s sixteen-year rule.