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We have no record of how $5bn Abacha loot was spent – AGF

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Federal government has said that there is no records of the exact amount of public funds stolen by a former military head of state, Sani Abacha and no records of the spending of about $5 billion recovered loot for the period between 1999 and 2015.

This was made known following request by Socio Economic Right Accountability Projects (SERAP) Freedom of Information (FoI) requests sent to Abukabar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice and Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, requesting: “information on the exact amount of public funds stolen by Abacha, and details of spending of about $5 billion recovered loot since the return of democracy in 1999.”

According to SERAP, only Mr Malami has sent a reply to its FoI requests. In the reply dated February 26 but which SERAP said it received March 9, Mr Malami said: “We have searched our records and the information on the exact amount of public funds stolen by Abacha and how recovered loot was spent from 1999–2015 is not held by the Ministry.”

Malami said, “However, a total of $322 million was recovered from Switzerland in January 2018 and the funds were used for Social Investment Project. Also, $308 million was recovered from the Island of Jersey in collaboration with the USA. While awaiting the transfer of the money to Nigeria, it has been designated for the following projects: Lagos—Ibadan Expressway; Abuja—Kano Expressway, and Second Niger Bridge.”

Dissatisfied with Mr Malami’s reply, SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare said: “The failure to provide information on the exact amount stolen by Abacha and on spending of recovered loot for the period between 1999 and 2015 implicitly amounts to a refusal by the government. The government also failed to provide sufficient details on the spending and planned spending of the $630 million it said it recovered since 2018.”

In the statement dated March 15, SERAP said: “in the circumstances and given that Mrs Zainab Ahmed has failed and/or refused to response to our FoI request, we are finalising the papers for legal actions under the FoI Act to compel the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to fully and effectively comply with our requests.”

Malami’s reply with reference number MJ/FOI/REQ/035/11/34, was signed on his behalf by Hamza Omolara, Principal Counsel at the Ministry of Justice.

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