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February 22, 20206min2200

The Nigerian Government is not paying $100 million out of the $308 million it is drawing down as part of the money stashed away in foreign banks by the late head of state, Sani Abachi, to Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Bagudu.

Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, made the clafification in response to claims the Buhari government was dashing the largess to the governor.

Daily Mail had reported how over 95% of the Abacha loot was going to be paid to Bagudu based on the final agreement reached with the Buhari administration.

The report had said the U.S. Department of Justice had indicted Bagudu in corruption sleeze with Abacha. The DoJ also contends that the Nigerian government is hindering U.S. efforts to recover allegedly laundered money it says it’s traced to Bagudu. Buhari’s administration says a 17-year-old agreement entitles Bagudu to the funds and prevents Nigeria from assisting the U.S., according to recent filings from the District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington.

“This case illustrates how complex and contentious repatriating stolen assets to Nigeria can be,” said Matthew Page, an associate fellow at London-based Chatham House and former Nigeria expert for U.S. intelligence agencies. “Instead of welcoming U.S. efforts, Nigeria’s lawyers appear to be supporting the interests of one of the country’s most powerful families.”
Neither Bagudu nor a spokesman for Attorney General Abubakar Malami responded to requests for comment. A spokesman for Buhari said the settlement and the litigation were matters for Malami. A spokesman for the DoJ declined to comment.
Successive Nigerian governments have sought to recoup the money looted by Abacha, who died in office, and have so far repatriated more than $2 billion with the cooperation of other countries, according to U.S. court filings.
The DoJ said in a Feb. 3 statement that Bagudu, 58, was part of a network controlled by Abacha that “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria.” Bagudu is the chairman of an influential body of governors representing the ruling All Progressives Congress.
Despite the forfeiture action being initiated following a Nigerian state request in 2012, Buhari’s government now says it can’t assist the U.S. because it’s bound by a settlement Bagudu reached with the administration of then-President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003, according to the court filings.
Under the terms of that accord, which was approved by a U.K. court, Bagudu returned $163 million of allegedly laundered money to the Nigerian authorities, which in exchange dropped all outstanding civil and criminal claims against him “stemming from his involvement in government corruption,” according to a Dec. 23 memorandum opinion by District Judge John D. Bates in Washington D.C.
That meant “Nigeria renounced any interest whatsoever” in Bagudu’s trust assets, including those the U.S. is attempting to recover for the West African nation, the opinion stated.
Bagudu was able to return to Nigeria after concluding the settlement and was elected as a senator in 2009. Six years later, he was voted in as Kebbi’s governor in elections that brought Buhari and his party to power.
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 141 million euros ($155 million) to the Nigerian state, which would then pay 98.5 million euros to Bagudu and his affiliates, according to Bates’ Dec. 23 opinion. The funds are currently restrained by the U.K. at the request of the U.S.

Nigeria’s government claims the updated 2018 agreement with the Kebbi governor, which requires court approval in the U.K., will “curtail and mitigate its looming exposure” from the judgment in Bagudu’s favor.

Buhari’s administration submitted the 2018 deal to the U.K. court in September to support its application to unfreeze the assets so they can be sent to Nigeria, according to the opinion. The court has yet to make a decision.
It is not clear how the government intends to use the loot when the budgets and sources of funding have long been made for the projects.
Daily Mail in-house General analyst say it is another way of looting the loot since monitoring would be difficult.

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