The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has urged the Federal Government to ensure transparency and accountability in the handling of recovered loots of former Head of State, late Gen. Sani Abacha.
CISLAC, in a statement by Executive Director, Auwal Musa, said selected Nigerian CSOs had co-signed a memorandum of understanding, which recognised the right and duty of CSOs to monitor the utilisation of the repatriated funds.
The recently concluded Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) in Washington, DC, sealed the return of stolen assets worth $321 million looted by Abacha and his family.
The event was attended by Nigerian Government officials led by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami and representatives of the Nigerian CSOs.
The assets, according to the forum, would be repatriated from the Swiss Government to Nigeria under the auspices of the World Bank.
CISLAC, while commending the deal, called on the Federal Government for urgent expedition of asset recovery management guidelines and greater transparency in the end-use of recovered assets.
It noted the recent disclosure by the Economic Financial Crimes Commission that 2.9 billion dollars had been recovered from May 2015 to Oct. 20, 2017.
“This sum represents around 12 per cent of the entire proposed 2018 Federal Government’s budget.
“We observe that there is little information and absence of clear guidelines on how these recovered assets are utilised to compensate the victims of ongoing looting of public resources and for the benefit of the citizens.
“Despite the undeniable progress on recovered assets domestically and internationally, the management of recovered assets still operates under fractioned legislative framework and unclear or absence of policy guidelines.”
The organisation expressed worries that the mandates of a number of anti-corruption agencies in regards to the asset recovery management overlapped.
“It remains unclear, which of the many anti-corruption institutions takes a lead in the coordination of asset recovery efforts.
“Crucial legislature with a potential to establish an acceptable asset recovery management framework such as the Proceeds of Crime Bill (2014) is stalled without explanation,” it said.
CISLAC demanded that clear guidelines be established on the use of recovered assets with priority given to the health and education sector.
“We call for a policy framework to set up integrity trust fund to manage asset recovery proceeds with involvement of credible CSOs and honest Nigerians with the case of the recent $321 million return as a worthy precedent.
“International jurisdictions which harbour estimated five billion dollars of Nigerian stolen assets must engage the Nigerian government in a transparent manner so that proceeds of corruption can benefit Nigerians living in abject poverty.
“There is no excusable reason for keeping Nigerian assets abroad and in secrecy.
“The breakdown of confiscated assets must be published by all mandated agencies without any delay to disperse the public suspicion of re-looting of looted assets.”
CISLAC called on the judiciary to put preference to civil proceedings, especially non-conviction based confiscation in absentia of the accused in the context of the inability to prosecute corrupt politically-exposed persons and others in criminal court trials.