Malam Abubakar Malami, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation confirmed this on Monday in a statement by the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations at his office, Dr Umar Gwandu.
Malami, noted in the statement that the amount increased significantly from over $308 million mentioned in an earlier statement in February to over $311 million as a result of the interest that accrued from February 3 to April 28, when the fund was transferred to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The Minister also recalled that the litigation process for the return of the assets titled ‘Abacha III’ commenced in 2014 while the diplomatic process that culminated in the signing of the Asset Return Agreement commenced in 2018.
The agreement was signed on February 3 by the governments of Nigeria, the United States, and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
“This Agreement is based on international law and cooperation measures, that sets out the procedures for the repatriation, transfer, disposition, and management of the assets,” he said.
He added that the recovery effort consolidates on the record of the Muhammadu Buhari administration which has a history of recovery of $322m from Switzerland in 2018 transparently and judiciously deployed in supporting indigent Nigerians as specified in the agreement signed with Switzerland and the World Bank.
According to him, the tripartite agreement and the process towards the implementation represented a major watershed in International Asset Recovery and Repatriation as it sought to provide benefit to the victims of corruption.
He said, “In line with the 2020 Asset Return Agreement, the fund has been transferred to a Central Bank of Nigeria Asset Recovery designated account and would be paid to the National Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) within the next fourteen days.
“The NSIA is responsible for the management and execution of the projects to which the funds will be applied.”
Malami said latest recovery would support and assist in expediting the construction of three major infrastructure projects across Nigeria – Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Abuja – Kano Road, and the Second Niger Bridge.
He added that a Project Monitoring Team to oversee the implementation of the projects and report regularly on progress made to the public will be established.
In addition, Malami said the government would engage a Civil Society Organisation who has combined expertise in substantial infrastructure projects, civil engineering, anti-corruption compliance, anti-human trafficking compliance, and procurement to provide additional monitoring and oversight.
According to him, the process for the engagement of the CSO monitor has already commenced with the adverts placed in two local newspapers.
The Minister further noted that recovered funds were laundered through the U.S. banking system and then held in bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey.
He revealed that a U.S. Federal Court in Washington D.C. forfeited the money in 2014, as property involved in the illicit laundering of the proceeds of corruption arising in Nigeria during the period when General Abacha was Head of State from 1993 to 1998.
The Nigerian government filed a case in the Bailiwick of Jersey to assert its authority as the owner of the funds and as the victim of the action of General Abacha in 2017.