Economy, Africa

Nigeria inks deal to repatriate $321M of 'stolen funds'

Tripartite agreement signed by Nigeria, Switzerland and World Bank

Nigeria inks deal to repatriate $321M of 'stolen funds'

By Rafiu Ajakaye

LAGOS, Nigeria

Nigeria has signed a tripartite agreement with Switzerland and the World Bank to repatriate at least $321 million worth of funds said to have been stashed abroad by the late military dictator Sani Abacha.

The agreement was signed late Monday at the ongoing Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) in the United States, according to a statement on Tuesday by the Nigerian Justice Ministry spokesman Salihu Isa.

"The MOU stipulates that the restitution of funds will take place within the framework of a project known as the National Social Investment Program that will strengthen social security for the poor in Nigeria," the statement said.

"The MOU also regulates the disbursement of restituted funds in tranches and sets out concrete measures to be taken in the event of misuse or corruption.

"The chosen solution for restitution is being undertaken by the three contracting parties as a partnership in line with the objectives of Switzerland's strategy to freeze, confiscate and return the illicitly acquired assets of politically exposed persons (asset recovery) which is based on the principles of transparency and accountability," it added.

Nigeria's justice minister, Abubakar Malami, Swiss envoy and head of the GFAR delegation Roberto Balzaretti and Nigeria's country director for the World Bank, Rachid Benmessaoud, signed the deal.

Isa said the deal also opened the door for Nigeria to negotiate for repatriation of stolen funds traced to local politicians.

Hundreds of millions of dollars traced to the late dictator have been repatriated to Nigeria since he died in office in the late 1990s. Officials say some of the money stolen by the general remains in several western banks.

Abacha, a military general notorious for hounding civil rights activists and pro-democracy campaigners, ruled Nigeria between 1993 and 1998 with an iron fist.

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