Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) Abubakar Malami yesterday announced that the Federal Government had recovered $85million from the United Kingdom (UK) out of what is due to government in the controversial Malabu oil deal.
He said: “I am also pleased to inform that Nigeria has just recovered the sum of $85million on the Malabu funds from UK.”
But he gave no detail.
Malami spoke at the Agenda for Pre-Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) Consultative Meeting organised by the Mac Arthur Foundation and the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ) in Abuja.
Malami also added that the Federal Government was concluding negotiations with Switzerland on the return of $331million recovered from the family of the former Head of State, the late General Sani Abacha.
According to him, Civil Society Organisations will be involved in the monitoring of the utilisation of the funds.
He stressed that with the conclusion of the negotiation, the countries involved are to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the repatriation of the funds in the next few weeks.
The minister said: “We are indeed concluding negotiation with Switzerland on the return of $331million recovered from the late Abacha’s family. I am pleased to inform that Civil Society Organisations were involved in the negotiation of the Memorandum of Understanding.
“Most importantly, the Civil Society Organisations will be involved in monitoring the use of funds. With the conclusion of negotiation, parties are to sign a Memorandum of Understanding at the global forum at Asset Recovery meeting and repatriation all follow within weeks as agreed by the parties. “
Malami recalled that Nigeria had implemented the United Nations Convention Against Corruption requirement through the development of National Strategy on Anti-Corruption.
The National Strategy on Anti-Corruption, according to Malami, was adopted by Nigeria and has been approved by the Federal Executive Council in July this year, which the President is expected to launch in due course.
The Malabu matter
OPL 245, otherwise known as Malabu, involved about nine billion barrels of crude oil.
It is considered as one of the most lucrative.
OPL 245 was awarded to Malabu at a time the owners were Chief Dan Etete, then Minister of Petroleum Resources, who approved the licence, and Mohammed, son of the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.
In the deal consummated in 2011, only $210 million of the $1.3 billion paid by Shell and Eni for the block went into Federal Government coffers as “signature bonus”.
The rest was paid to Malabu Oil and Gas, mainly owned by Etete. The sale to Malabu was nullified by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 and assigned to Shell — without a public bid.
Ownership was reverted to Malabu thereafter, leading to a legal action by Shell, which later resorted to negotiating directly with Etete after former President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office in 2010.
A year later, a $1.3 billion deal was struck, with Malabu getting $1.1 billion from Shell and Eni to its transfer ownership. The signature bonus was paid to Nigeria.
According to the minister, Nigeria is reviewing its anti-corruption laws. The Federal Government has signed government partnership initiative and completed the National Anti-Corruption national action plan with practical implementation in the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari is to launch the National Action Plan very soon.
“It is pertinent to state at this point that the repatriation of our stolen wealth needs very tedious several bilateral agreements entered into between Nigeria and other jurisdictions,” Malami said
Malami said his office held talks with office of interests during the global forum on asset recovery.
The countries include the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Switzerland, South Africa, Panama, United Arab Emirates, Northern Ireland and The Gambia.
The Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Eric Mayoroz, said Switzerland and the Buhari administration were committed to fighting corruption.
He noted that his country changed its legislation in the last decade so that stolen money could not be deposited there.
The envoy said that his country’s law on money laundering is now the global model in the fight against the crime.
According to him Switzerland was the first country to return stolen funds to Nigeria after it recovered $22million from the late Gen. Abacha’s family.
He said then, the Swiss Justice discovered that there were still other assets owned by the family in the country and it froze hundreds of million of dollars deposited by the family in the banks.
The envoy added that after an agreement was signed by the Swiss government and Nigeria in 2014, the Swiss Attorney General in Geneva decided that the money, about $320million, should be given back to Nigeria.
It held negotiation with the government of Nigeria and the modalities emerged in 2016 when Malami and the Swiss AGF signed the letter of intent,that the money should be protected from being looted again.
In June 2016, Vice President Yemi Osibanjo chose the projects to spend the money on to include those that would benefit the poorest in the society and that it would be monitored by the World Bank.
Mayoroz said: “A few weeks ago, at the moment of negotiation, leading to the final point and the writing of the Memorandum of Understanding, we are very grateful to the Nigerian authorities for its commitment to a transparent and accountable decision that is aimed to reduce absolute poverty and providing cash transfers to support the poorest and most vulnerable Nigerian population.”
He said that the Swiss government had insisted that measures must be taken to ensure that the money would not disappear again, noting that the role of the civil society is vital in the matter.
Mayoroz said: “We openly expect to sign another agreement between the Nigerian Civil Societies and the World Bank even before the end of this year.”
The British High Commission/Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Paul Arkwright, said the United Kingdom was keen to see the quick passage of Nigeria’s bill on asset recovery. It is ready to support its implementation.
Arkwright spoke of Civil Society Organisations’ vital roles in the monitoring and oversight of assets.
According to him, asset recovery is an important priority in the UK in its bilateral relationship with Nigeria.
The transparent management and use of money and the returned assets matter more to the United Kingdom than Nigeria.