Nigeria Plans to Spend $321m Abacha Loot on Social Welfare

Nigeria Plans to Spend $321m Abacha Loot on Social Welfare
Nigeria Plans to Spend $321m Abacha Loot on Social Welfare

Nigeria Plans to Spend $321m Abacha Loot on Social Welfare

The Nigerian government represented by the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) on Monday, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Switzerland and the World Bank for the repatriation of $321 million looted from Nigeria by late dictator, General Sani Abacha.

The MoU was signed on the sidelines of the ongoing Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) taking place in Washington DC in the United States of America (USA).

The sum to be repatriated to Nigeria was initially frozen in Luxembourg and later confiscated by Switzerland as part of criminal proceedings brought by the public prosecutor’s office of Geneva against Abacha in December 2014.

Nigeria is one of the 4 countries being prioritised for asset recovery assistance at the maiden edition of the GFAR. Sri Lanka, Tunisia and Ukraine are the 3 other countries listed for priority assistance.

The Nigerian presidency through its @AsoRock account on social media site Twitter, revealed that parties to the MOU agreed that the restitution of funds will take place within the framework of a project known as the National Social Investment Program (NSIP) that will strengthen social security for the poor in Nigeria.

NSIP is a social welfare program of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration through which it implements such intervention projects as the school feeding program, conditional cash transfers and N-Power, an empowerment program for teachers, technicians and agriculture extension workers.

The plan to direct recovered funds towards the administration’s social welfare program is expected to help guarantee sustainability and full implementation. It may also fulfill the desire of many Nigerians that recovered funds should be spent in ways that directly impact the people.

A possible challenge with the arrangement however, is the opacity presently attached to the social intervention projects. Not enough is being said about the exact amount spent and how exactly the sum is spent thereby leaving room for more corruption. As some Twitter users have stated, there are fears that the recovered funds may simply be re-looted in the guise of being spent on the poor.

The implementation of the school feeding program has, for instance, been met with criticisms around the quality of food served to school pupils which many claim do not match the expectations of parents based on the amount publicly announced as having been budgeted for the scheme. The government has frequently denied such claims but in November announced the arrest of some cooks who allegedly breached the set guidelines for the scheme.

There have similarly been insinuations that the conditional cash transfers have been hijacked by politicians who have allegedly either diverted sums released or arranged for payment to be made to their cronies.

Perhaps understanding the fears of the people, the presidency in its tweets noted that the MoU signed with Switzerland and the World Bank regulates the disbursement of the recovered funds in tranches and sets out concrete measures to be taken in the event of misuse or corruption. Members of the civil society are also expected to be involved in monitoring the repatriation of the funds.

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