The Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, at the weekend gave the details of how the Federal Government spent a total of $622 million looted during the regime of former Military Head of State, Late General Sani Abacha, which were recovered from foreign countries in 2017 and 2020.
According to the Chief of Staff to President Buhari, the looted funds were repatriated to Nigeria in two tranches in December 2017 and April 2020, following a successful engagement with the government’s of Switzerland, Jersey Island, United States, United Arab Emirates, Liechtenstein and others by the present government.
Prof. Gambari made this known in a paper delivered on the occasion of a book presentation, themed: “Continuity and Change in Nigeria’s Foreign Policy Under President Muhammadu Buhari,” at the 2021 Annual Public Lecture Series of the Society for International Relations Awareness (SIRA), held in Abuja at the weekend.
The Chief of Staff to the President was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who was also a special guest of honour at an event held at Rotunda Hall, Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja.
Giving the details on how the money was expended, the Chief of Staff, who was the guest lecturer said the first tranche of $322 is being disbursed for Social Investment Programme interventions, while the second tranche of $311 is being invested in the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF).
Speaking on what has really changed in Nigeria in the last decades that have shaped her path to progressive diplomacy which are largely attributable to President Buhari’s personality and character, he said: “The signing in August 2016, of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with UK Government on modalities for the return of Nigeria’s stolen assets in the UK.
“The establishment of a Global Forum for Asset Recovery (GFAR), hosted by the government’s of the US and UK in December 2017, to focus on assisting Nigeria and three other countries to reclaim their stolen assets. Nigeria joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2016 and developed a National Action Plan, which is already being implemented in 2016. In 3016, Nigeria signed an agreement on the identification and repatriation of illicit Funds with the United Arab Emirates during President Buhari’s visit to that country.”
Prof. Gambari added: “The Federal Government under Buhari has successfully engaged the government’s of Switzerland, Jersey Island, United States, United Arab Emirates and Liechtenstein among others, in an effort to ensure the repatriation of Nigeria’s stolen assets. A total of US$622 million was looted during the regime of former Military Head of State, Late General Sani Abacha was repatriated to Nigeria in two tranches in December 2017 and April 2020.
“The first tranche ($322) is being disbursed as part of the Buhari’s Administration’s Social Investment Programme interventions, while the second tranche ($311) is being invested in the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), managed by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSA).
“Perhaps the aforementioned developments and achievements have endeared him to recognitions of the international community, hence his designation by the African Union (AU) as Anti-Corruption Champion for 2018.”
Other international events that have impacted positively on Nigeria diplomacy include the election of Dr, Akinwumi Adesina as the President of African Development Bank (AFDB), the appointment of Amina Mohammed as the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), and the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as the Director-General of World Trade Organization (WTO) as well a host of other Nigerians who has emerged and assumed top positions in international organizations.
In his opening remarks, the President of SIRA, Comrade Owei Lakemfa, said from independence, Nigeria walked the path of Pan Africanism and the right of all peoples to self-determination, but questioned the stand of Nigeria and present and if the country was still on that track.
Comrade Lakemfa said: “In the mid-1980s, we joined the rest of Africa in granting recognition to Western Sahara as an independent country called the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), is there continuity or change about that? There is a trending story that the Chairperson of the African Union Commission has received credentials from the Ambassador of Israel and granted that country observer status at the African Union.
“This of course weakens Africa’s collective stance on the Palestinian peoples’ right to a homeland, their right to self-determination and a two-state solution wherein the Israelis and Palestinians will live in their independent and secured borders. Does this continue to be Nigeria’s policy?”
Established in 2010, he pointed out that SIRA was dedicated and interested in promoting greater awareness of international relations as it pertains to Nigeria, adding, “Our collective mission was also driven by our awareness of an existing void, outside government in driving and creating awareness on international relations in the country.”
Comrade Lakemfa stated that the objective of the SIRA Annual Lecture was to continuously highlight the fast and ever-evolving components of Nigeria’s foreign policy while deepening international cooperation and promoting international understanding and awareness.