Senior US Senator Chuck Grassley is trying to blocking the move by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to repatriate another batch of Abacha loot worth N117,440,000,000 ($320m) from New Jersey to Nigeria
Senator Chuck Grassley is blocking the repatriation of N117,440,000,000 laundered by the late Military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, who ruled Nigeria from 1994 until his death on June 1998.
Considering the rate of human rights abuses and how Nigeria’s government utilised the previous Abacha loot which was returned to Nigeria, Senator Grassley told the US Department of Justice to block the return.
Grassley is believed to be one of the confidants and political ally of President Donald Trump.
The senior is questioning the reason for considering the return when it was obviously clear that the money would be mismanaged or shared among corrupt politicians.
The senator specifically made reference to Abacha loot Nigeria is expecting from the United Kingdom which the Buhari’s led government is planning to pay a certain percentage of the money to the former Investment Adviser to the late despot and now a governor in Kebbi State, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu.
Grassley described the Kebbi State governor as one of the fronts Abacha used to siphon millions of oil money to foreign accounts.
In a letter dated April 1, 2020, according to The Punch, which was addressed to Deborah Connor, Chief Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section of the US Department of Justice, Grassley made reference to a Bloomberg report which exposed Nigeria’s arrangement with Bagudu.
Grassley Position on Why N117 Billion Abacha Loot Should be Held
Quoting part of the letter, Grassley said, “In 2014, the Isle of Jersey, a British dependency seized more than $320m laundered by the corrupt former dictator of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha. After a long legal battle, the Isle of Jersey and the United States have entered into an agreement to repatriate this money back to Nigeria in the coming months.
“Yet, according to a recent Bloomberg article, the current Nigerian government is refusing to help the US Department of Justice finalise a second forfeiture action against a separate $100m in Abacha loot.
“In addition to this lack of cooperation, if Nigeria did receive the second batch of funds, it intends to return the money to an official who DOJ says was involved in corruption with Abacha.”
Abuse of human rights by Buhari’s government
US, UK had in the past accused the APC-led government of Buhari of gross human rights abuse, which Aso Rock has described as falsehood against the government of the retired Army General.
Grassley who is the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said “There are also serious human rights concerns.
“Under President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, Nigerians face violations undermining freedom of religion, freedom of speech, due process, and the rule of law.
“In late December, the US State Department labelled Nigeria a severe violator of religious freedom.
“The Buhari government’s own agencies have also abused the civil liberties of innocent Nigerian citizens. Last December’s re-arrest and detention of a US green card-holding journalist is just the latest high profile example.
Arrest of Omoyele Sowore mentioned
The Republican senator also mentioned among other things the arrest of Sahara Publisher in 2019 a few months after the 2019 presidential polls.
“The re-arrest and detainment of New Jersey resident, Omoyele Sowore, just one day after he was released by a judicial court, is a clear testament to its glaring contempt of judicial opinion and the rule of law. Mr Sowore, an activist journalist and former political opponent of President Buhari, is still being detained, a blatant transgression of international norms.”
Agents of oppression under Buhari’s government
Similarly, Grassley mentioned Nigeria’s Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), and the Chairman, Economic Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, as the agents of oppression under the Buhari-s government, an accusation spokesman to AGF Umar Gwandu described as baseless.
FG denies plan to pay Bagudu certain percentage of Abacha loot
In the meantime, Nigerian authority has denied the plan by the Buhari’s government to concede over N40 billion to Bagudu which is part of over N110 billion ($300m) to be repatriated to Nigeria from the Island of New Jessy.
Nigeria’s Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami made the clarification in a statement, stating that Nigeria was exclusively bound by the tripartite agreement entered into and signed by the Federal Government of Nigeria, United States of America and Island of Jessy for the repatriation of over $300m funds referred to as Abacha III.
Trust in Buhari’s government
Malami added that the international community had developed more confidence in the Buhari-led government than any previous government in Nigeria.
According to him, the previous repatriated monies were judiciously utilised for high-impact public-oriented projects.
More revelations are unveiled every day regarding how Abacha loot is being spent because the fight against corruption is one of the cardinal programmes of the Katsina-born President whose tenure comes to an end by May 29, 2023.
How did Buhari’s government spend previous repatriated Abacha loot?
The government of Buhari came on board with hundreds of programme to lift millions of Nigerians out of extreme poverty.
In 2016, he launched the Social Investment Programme (SIP) which gulped billions of naira monthly. The SIP houses N-Power, Conditional Cash Transfer, School Feeding, TraderMoni, but opposition to the ruling government said the programmes were strategically positioned towards elections to get the support of electorates.
But the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, Mrs Maryam Uwais, on October 2019 told Nigerians that Abacha loot was used to fund 80 per cent of SIP, a claim Nigerians are finding hard to believe considering the worst standard of living of population while politicians continue to live beyond their means.