US disagrees with Nigeria’s plan to hand Kebbi governor $100m from Abacha loot

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The United States is opposing plans by Nigeria to give $100 million from loots recovered from former Nigeria military dictator Sani Abacha to Kebbi State governor Atiku Bagudu.

US Department of Justice said Bagudu was involved in corruption with the late Abacha who Transparency International (TI) said may have looted as much as $5 billion during his 1993-98 rule in Nigeria.

DoJ also contends that the Nigerian government is hindering U.S. efforts to recover allegedly laundered money it said was traced to Bagudu, Bloomberg reported on Friday.

DoJ said in a statement earlier in the month that Bagudu with Abacha and Abacha’s son Mohammed Sani Abacha “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria and others, then laundered their criminal proceeds through U.S. financial institutions and the purchase of bonds backed by the United States.”

“The United States has asked the government of Nigeria to withdraw litigation it has instituted in the UK that hinders the U.S. effort to recover these additional funds for the people of Nigeria,” DoJ said in February 2020.

According to the Bloomberg report, the Nigerian government said there is a 17-year-old agreement that 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.

“This case illustrates how complex and contentious repatriating stolen assets to Nigeria can be,” said Matthew Page, an associate fellow at London-based Chatham House and former Nigeria expert for U.S. intelligence agencies.

“Instead of welcoming U.S. efforts, Nigeria’s lawyers appear to be supporting the interests of one of the country’s most powerful families.”

Prior to this, Nigerian governments have sought to recoup the money looted by Abacha, who died in office, and have so far repatriated more than $2 billion with the cooperation of other countries, according to U.S. court filings.

In the case involving Bagudu, the U.S. in 2013 initiated a forfeiture action against a host of assets, including four investment portfolios held in London in trust for him and his family, according to the district court filings.