Nigeria has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Ireland for the return of $6.3 million (equivalent of 5.49million Euros), regarding the return, disposition and management of certain forfeited assets of Abacha.
The agreement was reached at the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation (HAGF) in Abuja, on Tuesday, 11th August, 2020.
In his brief remarks after signing the MOU on behalf of Nigeria Government, the HAGF, Abubakar Malami SAN said, the Federal Republic of Nigeria through its legal representatives went to court to assert its right over the Abacha stolen funds sized in Ireland by the High Court of Ireland in 2015.
“On 10th December, 2019, the FG sought for an order pursuant to section 3(3) of the 1996 act to discharge or vary the order of 16th March, 2015. Following the hearing of the augment from the FG and Government of Ireland, the high court on 15th June, 2020 in the exercise of his function, ordered that the stolen assets recovered from the Abacha family should be transferred to the FG for the benefit of Nigerians subject to the execution of a MOU between the two Governments” Malami explained.
He expressed his delight over Nigeria and Ireland conclusion on the negotiation of the return of $6.3million (equivalent of 5.49million Euros. According to him, “this had demonstrated that International cooperation and mutual trust can lead to great benefit for citizens in developing countries, where more than half of the population still live below poverty line”.
Malami noted that, “The Federal Ministry of Justice has obtained presidential approval to sign the MOU on behalf of the Government of Nigeria. Therefore, today, I have the privilege to sign this MOU on behalf of FG. The Minister of Justice and equality, Ms Helen McEntee, TD is also signing the counterpart MOU in Ireland”.
However, the Minister maintained that, “the most salient aspect of the MOU is that, the stolen fund that is now being returned to Nigeria will be applied to the infrastructure projects under the supervision of the Nigeria Social Investment Authority (NSIA) to ensure the completion of on-going work of the 2nd Niger Bridge, Abuja –Kano Express Way and the Lagos-Ibadan road. Adding that, these projects will benefit millions of Nigeria”.
The Honourable Minister assured that the implementation of the MOU will be monitored by the identified Civil Society Organisations (CSO) to be recruited under the project and would also be audited by an independent auditor in line with best practices.
Helen McEntee, Ireland minister of justice and equality, said the MoU followed an order recently issued by a court in Ireland regarding the funds.
The Ireland Criminal Assets Bureau froze the loot in 2014 under request from the administration of then-President Goodluck Jonathan.
“I am very pleased to sign this Memorandum of Understanding between Ireland and Nigeria. This represents the culmination of a long process which began with an internationally led investigation,” McEntee said in a statement on Thursday.
“The Criminal Assets Bureau took part in this international operation which led to the freezing of over $1 billion in funds worldwide, of which approximately €5.5 million was identified in a Dublin based bank account.
“The return of these assets will be the first time that Ireland has taken such action and will be a concrete demonstration of Ireland’s commitment to international cooperation in the fight against corruption and to assisting countries which have been adversely affected by corruption in the past, and is in line with our international obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption.”