The Federal Government, yesterday, met with top officials of the United Kingdom, United States of America and Jersey to work out the final modalities for drawing down $500 million Abacha loot frozen by the American government.
The meeting, which was held at Nigerian High Commission in London, was attended by Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; Nigeria’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Justice George Oguntade; lawyers engaged by Nigeria to recover assets abroad and justice department officials from the US, UK, and Jersey.
It will be recalled that the US had obtained an international forfeiture order against the funds stashed away by the late head of state, Sani Abacha, in many countries following his death; but is now willing to lift the embargo following series of discussions to enable Nigeria to repatriate the cash for its use.
Malami told Vanguard in an exclusive interview from London that Nigeria had agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the UK, US, and Jersey on the return of the cash to the country.
The Justice Minister said: “At our meeting in London today, we reviewed the MoU to be signed by Nigeria, US, UK and Jersey and made collective input into it so that at our next and final meeting in July we can sign the document and agree on the final draw down of the money.
“Indeed, Nigeria has made tremendous progress regarding the repatriation of the cash. Right now, the case filed by a Nigerian lawyer claiming to be entitled to a huge percentage of the amount from the Abacha loot has been dismissed by the Appeal Court but he can still appeal if he wants to."
“But our strong conviction is that the money will be drawn down for the benefit of the country and we are working hard to ensure that it is done as soon as possible by taking the necessary legal and diplomatic steps to deal with it,” Malami said.
After the London meeting, Malami proceeded to Switzerland to have another round of discussion with officials of the Swiss government in respect of another Abacha loot repatriation.
He did not, however, say how much was involved in the new round of discussion but confirmed that the $370 Abacha loot, which the Federal Government earlier negotiated with the Swiss authorities had since been transferred to the Central Bank of Nigeria.