Friday, 14 August 2020

Ireland to Return Abacha’s Frozen Funds to Nigeria

 Ireland to Return Abacha’s Frozen Funds to Nigeria

By Kalada Meshack-Hart

Late Gen. Sani Abacha remains the gift to Nigeria that keeps on giving. Ireland has signed an agreement with Nigeria for the return of funds misappropriated by Nigeria’s former leader, who ruled the country from 1993 until his death in 1998.

The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) took part in an international operation linked to the case which led to the freezing of over $1 billion of assets worldwide, of which approximately €5.5 million was identified in a Dublin-based bank account.

The funds were frozen in a bank account in Ireland by CAB in October 2014. After an application by the Nigerian authorities last year, the High Court earlier this year made an order providing for the return of these assets to Nigeria, subject to a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two governments.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said the return of the assets would be “a concrete demonstration” of Ireland’s commitment to international cooperation in the fight against corruption.

The agreement was reached today at the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation (HAGF) in Abuja, on Tuesday, 11th August, 2020.

The HAGF, Abubakar Malami SAN said, the Federal Republic of Nigeria through its legal representatives went to court to assert its right over the Abacha stolen funds sized in Ireland by the High Court of Ireland in 2015.

“On 10th December, 2019, the FG sought for an order pursuant to section 3(3) of the 1996 act to discharge or vary the order of 16th March, 2015. Following the hearing of the augment from the FG and Government of Ireland, the high court on 15th June, 2020 in the exercise of his function, ordered that the stolen assets recovered from the Abacha family should be transferred to the FG for the benefit of Nigerians subject to the execution of a MOU between the two Governments” Malami explained.

He expressed his delight over Nigeria and Ireland conclusion on the negotiation of the return of $6.3million (equivalent of 5.49million Euros. According to him, “this had demonstrated that International cooperation and mutual trust can lead to great benefit for citizens in developing countries, where more than half of the population still live below poverty line”.

Malami noted that, “The Federal Ministry of Justice has obtained presidential approval to sign the MOU on behalf of the Government of Nigeria. Therefore, today, I have the privilege to sign this MOU on behalf of FG. The Minister of Justice and equality, Ms Helen McEntee, TD is also signing the counterpart MOU in Ireland”.

However, the Minister maintained that, “the most salient aspect of the MOU is that, the stolen fund that is now being returned to Nigeria will be applied to the infrastructure projects under the supervision of the Nigeria Social Investment Authority (NSIA) to ensure the completion of on-going work of the 2nd Niger Bridge, Abuja –Kano Express Way and the Lagos-Ibadan road. Adding that, these projects will benefit millions of Nigeria”.

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