US Department of Justice (DoJ) officials have expressed a reluctance to hand over a sum of $100m recovered from the late dictator General Sani Abacha to the federal government amid fears that the money may be handed to Governor Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State.
Under the terms of an agreement the US has with the Nigerian federal government, the money recovered from general Abacha will be handed over in tranches. However, there are fears that if the latest instalment is paid, attorney-general Abubakar Malami will hand it over to his state governor and the money will not go towards it intended purposes bit disappear into private pockets.
Mr Malami, who has been overseeing the recovery of the looted funds on behalf of Nigeria, is from Kebbi State and has been rumoured to be eyeing the state governorship position at the end of Governor Bagudu’s tenure in 2023. Governor Bagudu, who chairs the All Progressives Congress Governors Forum, is a known associate of the late Sani Abacha.
In the past, the governor has been linked to some of the monies reportedly stolen by General Abacha, including the $300m recently recovered. he was also named as a beneficiary in a recent case involving over $177m highlighted by the US Department of Justice.
News agency Bloomberg, recently cited documents before the district court of Columbia in which the Nigerian government said its agreement prevents the country from assisting the US in investigating Governor Bagudu. However, the DOJ is said to have opposed the terms, particularly the government’s plan to hand the money to the governor despite his indictment on the looted funds.
It is also feared that the disagreement between the two countries may hamper future cooperation in efforts to recover funds stolen by General Abacha. Apparently, the contract, approved by a UK court, is said to have cleared Governor Bagudu of all outstanding civil and criminal claims against him after he returned $163m said to be laundered money to the Nigerian treasury.
Bloomberg reported: “After Bagudu successfully sued Nigeria for violating the 2003 settlement, Buhari’s administration reached a new agreement with him in October 2018, according to the court filings. That would result in the transfer of ownership of the investment portfolios, worth $155m to the Nigerian state, which would then pay €98.5m to Bagudu and his affiliates, according to District Judge John D. Bates’ December 23 opinion.”
Transparency International estimates General Abacha might have looted as much as $5bn during his regime from 1993 to 1998. About $3.6bn of this has so far been recovered out of that money so far.