The U.S. Government has rejected moves by the Nigerian government to hand over about $100m stolen by the late dictator, Sani Abacha to one of his associates and the incumbent governor of Kebbi state, Atiku Bagudu, who was among those that helped laundered the funds.
The US government according to Bloomberg news has held that the Nigerian government is frustrating efforts to recover the looted funds linked to Bagudu.
“The U.S. Department of Justice says Bagudu was involved in corruption with Abacha. The DoJ also contends that the Nigerian government is hindering U.S. efforts to recover allegedly laundered money it says it’s traced to Bagudu. Buhari’s administration says a 17-year-old agreement entitles Bagudu to the funds and prevents Nigeria from assisting the U.S., according to recent filings from the District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington” Bloomberg reported.
“The disagreement may hamper future cooperation between the two nations to recover state money moved offshore by Abacha, who Transparency International estimates may have looted as much as $5 billion during his 1993-98 rule. A commitment by Nigeria to transfer the funds to Kebbi state Governor Abubakar Bagudu appears to undermine Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s pledge to quell rampant graft in Africa’s top oil producer” the report further stated.
Bagudu was arrested in the US for money laundering, he spent 6 months in Texas federal detention before he was released to the Nigerian Government in 2003 after he agreed to return the sum of $163m in exchange for extradition to the state of Jersey to face criminal charges. Nigerian Government failed to prosecute Bagudu, who now enjoys immunity from prosecution as state governor.
“After Bagudu successfully sued Nigeria for violating the 2003 settlement, Buhari’s administration reached a new agreement with him in October 2018, according to the court filings. That would result in the transfer of ownership of the investment portfolios, worth 141 million euros ($155 million) to the Nigerian state, which would then pay 98.5 million euros to Bagudu and his affiliates, according to Bates’ Dec. 23 opinion. The funds are currently restrained by the U.K. at the request of the U.S.
“Nigeria’s government claims the updated 2018 agreement with the Kebbi governor, which requires court approval in the U.K., will “curtail and mitigate its looming exposure” from the judgment in Bagudu’s favor”, the report added.