In Abuja, the 3rd of February, 2020:
The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) wishes to unequivocally appreciate the Government of Nigeria in their effort to repatriate the stolen Nigerian assets abroad. This is demonstrated by the just announced landmark agreement between the Government of Nigeria, the Island of Jersey and the United States of America for repatriation of assets looted by Sani Abacha.
On behalf of Nigeria, the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, is expected to sign a tripartite agreement with the Island of Jersey and the United States of America for repatriation of hundreds of millions of looted assets. Once the full volume of assets is repatriated to Nigeria and put to use for the benefit of Nigerian citizens, an important milestone in the ongoing effort of the Nigerian government, Nigerian civil society and like-minded international partners, will be achieved.
CISLAC and our Nigerian and international partners have long been campaigning for unconditional and swift repatriation of Nigerian and African wealth stolen by kleptocratic leaders aided by the international financial enablers. We have been consistent in urging the Government of Nigeria to establish an accountable and transparent system, which would enable 100% accountable utilization of the repatriated assets to the corruption victims, in most cases, the entire Nigerian population, whose common wealth has been systematically plundered and illegally exported abroad for many decades.
In principle, CISLAC supports the investment of the recovered assets for infrastructure projects. In the context of technical problems, controversies and heavy transaction costs associated with some previous international recoveries, the recovered assets may be invested into infrastructural projects which may be easier to independently verify, and their completion and usage observed by the Nigerian population without expensive verification mechanisms by third parties.
As we still await full disclosure of the details of this deal, infrastructure projects namely for Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano road and the 2nd Niger Bridge, are reported to be funded by these repatriated assets.
However, we shall insist that the Government complies with the 10 Global Forum for Asset Recovery (GFAR) principles as signed by the Government of Nigeria in 2017 in Washington, DC. In particular, the principle four (4), Transparency and Accountability, should be upheld. The Nigerian public, through independent and competent civil society, should be given an unrestricted access to the contractual arrangement by all three parties of this agreement. The Nigerian public must have unhindered access to the contractual arrangement of this deal to prevent re-looting and misuse of these assets by well-connected individuals and companies. The public has the right to know how these infrastructure projects were selected, which party will oversee the procurement, how the quality of the work will be verified and all other relevant details.
Let us recall that GFAR principle five (5), Beneficiaries, urges that recovery of stolen assets should benefit the victims of the corrupt practice. The principle of Preclusion of Benefits to Offenders must prevent corrupt individuals from benefiting from this hard-won repatriation of these assets totaling close to 5 billion USD, which Sana Abacha and his cronies had stolen.
We further urge the Government of Nigeria, the Government of United States and the Jersey authorities, to comply with the GFAR Principle 10 – Inclusion of non-governmental stakeholders. Whereas there have been informal consultations between the concerned governments and some civil society leaders, well-respected and competent non-governmental parties must be formally invited to supervise the utilization of these assets. In the Nigerian context where over 70% of corrupt proceeds emerges from large-scale procurement of public projects, independent oversight is indispensable. With other billions of dollars awaiting repatriation, Nigeria cannot allow mismanagement or mishandling of already recovered assets.
CISLAC would also like to highlight the fact that many unfulfilled reforms in the assert recovery regime still needs to be adopted by the Government of Nigeria. We still lack clear guidelines for domestic and international recoveries. Domestic recoveries, which surpass in their totality by far the international asset recovery, operate under a chaotic system prone to misuse and abuse by agencies with the mandate to seize and confiscate assets. Crucial legal framework called Proceeds of Crime Act has been inexplicably stalled.
Civil society leaders have supported the Nigerian government in the international effort. CISLAC endorsed the asset recovery principles agreed in Washington, DC. in 2017, participated in OECD policy rounds in Paris and spared no effort to appeal to international partners to unconditionally return vast proceeds of corruption stashed around the globe and in Nigeria. The Executive Director of CISLAC also supported two recent resolutions on asset recovery adopted by the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in Abu Dhabi in December 2019. The Nigerian Government needs to be credited for submitting and pushing these important resolutions at the global stage. All countries robbed by criminal networks profit from these efforts.
We urge the Government of Nigeria to continue to push for reforms which will lead to the establishment of accountable and transparent monitoring framework. Only then we can channel domestic and international recoveries towards the implementation of SDGs and other initiatives targeting the most vulnerable in our society.
Today, we celebrate an important milestone. However, dozens of other international cases and thousands of domestic asset recoveries await successful conclusion. We urge the Government of Nigeria, international partners, civil society leaders and others to push for addressing root causes of grand corruption and illicit financial flows, which are responsible for robbing Nigerians and others of large parts of national revenues.
Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani)
Executive Director, CISLAC