Nigeria: Abacha Loot – Serap Asks Buhari to Publicise Agreement With Us Govt

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to provide it with a copy of the agreement the government recently signed with the United States for the repatriation of $23 million stolen by the former head of state, late General Sani Abacha.

SERAP, which made this demand in a Freedom of Information letter, insisted that the government has a responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability in how any repatriated stolen funds are spent, to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.

The United States government had last week signed an agreement with the federal government to repatriate $23 million Abacha loot to Nigeria.

In the letter dated August 27 and signed by the organisation’s deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, SERAP said the Nigerian Constitution 1999, the Freedom of Information Act, and the country’s international obligations, imposed an obligation of transparency on government to widely publish the agreement on the $23million Abacha loot.

The organisation, in the letter, urged the government to provide it with a copy of the agreement with the US, and that by publishing the agreement it would allow Nigerians to scrutinise it, and to monitor the spending of the repatriated $23million loot to ensure that the money is not mismanaged, diverted or stolen.

SERAP further expressed concern that the repatriated $23million Abacha loot is vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. Substantial part of the estimated $5billion returned Abacha loot since 1999 may have been diverted, re-stolen or mismanaged, and in any case remain unaccounted for.

The letter, reads in part, “The Nigerian Constitution, Freedom of Information Act, and the country’s anti-corruption and human rights obligations rest on the principle that citizens should have access to information regarding their government’s activities.

“SERAP also urges you to provide details of the transparency and accountability mechanisms that have been put in place to ensure that the repatriated funds are not mismanaged, diverted or re-stolen.

“We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within seven days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.

“Publishing a copy of the agreement signed with the US would also promote transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds. Nigerians are entitled to their constitutionally and internationally recognized human right to information.

“Publishing a copy of the agreement would ensure that persons with public responsibilities are answerable to the people for the performance of their duties including the management of repatriated loot.

“The Freedom of Information Act, Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee to everyone the right to information, including to a copy of the agreement on the repatriated $23million Abacha loot.

“According to our information, the US government recently signed an agreement with the Federal Government to repatriate $23 million Abacha loot to Nigeria.

“The agreement was signed on behalf of your government by Mr Abubakar Malami. This repatriation brings the total amount of funds repatriated in the Abacha case by the US to more than $334.7 million,” SERAP stated.

The letter was copied to the attorney-general of the federation and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).

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