Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to “urgently direct Mrs Zainab Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning to disclose spending details of the $700 million looted funds reportedly recovered by the Federal Government in the past four years, including the list and location of projects completed with the money, as well as details of the contractors that executed the projects.”
SERAP also urged him to “direct Mrs Ahmed to disclose how the government plans to spend the returned £4.2m Ibori loot, including details of planned capital expenditure, and whether there is any plan to ensure that the money and any future returned Ibori loot would be spent to achieve justice and effective remedies for victims of corruption in Delta State.”
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, had last week stated that the Federal Government recovered over $700m looted funds, disclosed the return of £4.2m linked to James Ibori, and the plan to repatriate more than £80m of Ibori loot.
In the Freedom of Information request dated 22 May, 2021 and signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization said: “Disclosing spending details of the recovered $700m loot, and spending plans for the £4.2m Ibori loot would promote transparency, accountability, and be entirely consistent with your constitutional oath of office to ensure the well-being of Nigerians.”
SERAP said: “Rather than borrowing another N2.3trillion ($6.18bn) external loan, SERAP urges you to ensure a transparent and accountable use of recovered loot to fund the 2021 budget, improve the country’s economy, and address widespread poverty. This would promote a just and honest government, and ensure that recovered loot is not re-stolen at the expense of the poor.”
The letter, read in part: “SERAP therefore urges you to withdraw your latest request seeking the approval of the National Assembly to borrow another $6.1billion in the public interests, and to ensure accountable fiscal stewardship of Nigeria’s money for both current and future generations.”
“Providing the information and widely publishing the details would also enhance your government’s authority and credibility to demand the return of more looted public funds from abroad, as well as facilitate the repatriation of potentially billions of dollars still stashed in rich countries.”
“Your government has a legal obligation under the UN Convention against Corruption to ensure that recovered stolen public money is not embezzled again, and that any returned loot is spent for the benefit of the real victims of corruption—the ordinary Nigerians whose commonwealth has been stolen, and who continue to suffer the consequences of grand corruption.”
“SERAP notes that the consequences of corruption are felt by poor citizens on a daily basis. Corruption exposes them to additional costs to pay for health, water, education and administrative services. Another consequence of corruption is the growing inequality in the country, where the privileged few have access to all public resources, while the vast majority of citizens are deprived of access to public services.”
“Our requests are brought in the public interest, and in keeping with the requirements of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended]; the Freedom of Information Act, and the country’s international obligations including under the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.”
“Our requests are also entirely in line with the judgment by Justice Mohammed Idris ordering your government to widely publish up-to-date information on recovered stolen funds since the return of civilian rule in 1999. Your government has refused to obey the judgment, despite publicly promising to do so.”
“We would be grateful if the recommended measures are taken within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter. If we have not heard from you by then, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.”
“As a signatory to the UN Convention against Corruption and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Nigeria has committed to ensure transparent and accountable management of public resources, and unhindered access to public information. These commitments ought to be fully upheld and respected.”
“According to our information, Mr Malami recently reportedly disclosed that your government has recovered over $700 million looted funds from the United States, the United Kingdom, Bailiwick of Jersey, Switzerland, and Ireland in the past four years.”
“Mr Malami also disclosed the return of £4.2 million linked to James Ibori, former Delta state governor, and his associates. Your government is also reportedly working towards securing the repatriation of more than £80 million linked to Ibori.”
The letter was copied to Mr Malami and Mrs Ahmed.