A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos in a landmark judgment has ordered the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to “ensure that his government, and the governments of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, and former President Goodluck Jonathan account fully for all recovered loot.”
The court held that successive governments since the return of democracy in 1999 “breached the fundamental principles of transparency and accountability for failing to disclose details about the spending of recovered stolen public funds, including on a dedicated website.”
The judgment was delivered on Friday by Hon Justice M.B. Idris following a Freedom of Information suit no: FHC/IKJ/CS/248/2011brought by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
The details ordered by the court to be disclosed include : information on the total amount of recovered stolen public assets by each government; the amount of recovered stolen public assets spent by each government as well as the objects of such spending and the projects on which such funds were spent.
Justice Idris dismissed all the objections raised by the Federal Government and upheld SERAP’s arguments.
The government of Switzerland is currently preparing to transfer to the Nigerian government, another $300 million recovered from the family of former military ruler, Sani Abacha, foreign minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, announced on January 2016.
The money is part of an estimated $5 billion stolen and stashed in foreign accounts by the late dictator.
Nigeria has in the last 10 years received over $1 billion from the Swiss and American governments, but there are growing concerns past administrations misused the huge sum.
Elombah.com recalls that the immediate past Minister of Finance, and Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, alleged to have illegally approved the transfer of at least N61.4 billion ($300 million and £5.5 million) from funds recovered from late dictator, Sani Abacha, to the Office of the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, few weeks to the 2015 presidential election.
According to a letter signed by Okonjo-Iweala, the former Finance minister signed off the transfer of the funds but requested then President Goodluck Jonathan to directly demand accountability from the then National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki.
In her immediate reaction, however, Okonjo-Iweala explained that only a part of the fund recovered from late Abacha was spent on arms and not the entire fund.
Dasuki, alongside the former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, and founder of DAAR Communications, owners of Africa Independent Television and Raypower radio network, Raymond Dokpesi, are being investigated for their roles in the disbursement of $2.1 billion and N643 billion meant for the procurement of arms to fight the raging insurgency in Nigeria’s north east region.
Okonjo-Iweala’s letter dated January 20, 2015, which was addressed to Jonathan, revealed that the money was transferred following a January 12, 2015 request by the Office of the NSA under Dasuki for funds for the procurement of arms and ammunition as well as intelligence equipment.
The letter read:“Please find a request by the National Security Adviser (NSA) for the transfer of $300 million and £5.5 million of the recovered Abacha funds to an ONSA (Office of the National Security Adviser) operations account.
“The NSA has explained that this is to enable the purchase of ammunition, security, and other intelligence equipment for the security agencies in order to enable them fully confront the ongoing Boko Haram threat.
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