The World Bank Says Loot Recovered From Late Dictator, Gen Sani Abacha, May Have Been Spent On Infrastructure Development By The Federal Government
There are indications that looted public funds recovered by the Federal Government from the family of late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, may have been utilized in funding infrastructure development including roads, electricity, education, health and water.
However, President Muhammadu Buhari is being urged to consider a review of the spending so as to ascertain actual usage of the recovered loot.
This disclosure was contained in a correspondence from World Bank to the Socio- Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), which had written the bank seeking explanation on its role in the management of the recovered money.
SERAP stated in a statement signed by its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, that it received over 700 pages of materials on the recovery and usage of the Abacha loot.
It said some of the documents made available to it by the World Bank quoted former Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as stating that the recovered funds were built into the 2004 and 2005 federal budgets.
Urging a probe, SERAP quoted the World Bank as saying that it has “no funds monitoring and tracking mechanism” to track the use of such funds.
In the statement, SERAP said it “received several documents from the World Bank totaling over 700 pages on information on the spending of recovered assets stolen by the late General Abacha, with some of the documents suggesting that Abacha loot was spent on roads, electricity, education, health and water.”
It further stated that it “can confirm that last week we received several documents from Ann May of the Access to Information Team of the World Bank following our Access to Information Request to the Bank. We also received a letter dated 24 November 2015 from Mr. Rachid Benmessaoud, Director of the World Bank in Africa.”
“In total, SERAP has received over 700 pages of documents, which we are now closely studying and scrutinising with a view to discovering whether the documents contain details that Nigerians would like to see and whether the information corresponds to the facts on the ground. After this analysis, we will respond to the Bank and consider our options, including filing an appeal before the Bank’s Access to Information Appeals Board and taking other appropriate legal actions nationally and internationally to discover what exactly happened to Abacha recovered loot”, the organisation said.
“In the meantime our preliminary review of some of the documents and the letter from Mr. Rachid Benmessaoud have revealed certain facts which raise more questions about what exactly happened to Abacha loot: First, that Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala as Minister of Finance in a letter dated 9 January 2005 explained to the Bank that around $500m (N65bn) of Abacha loot received from Switzerland was programmed into and spent in the 2004 and 2005 budgets on roads, electricity, education, water and health across all six geo-political zones of Nigeria.
“Second, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala explained to the Bank that N18.60bn was spent on roads; N10.83bn spent on health; N7bn spent on education; N6.20bn spent on water; and N21.70bn spent on electricity. She also said that part of the funds was spent on new and ongoing investment projects. Mrs Iweala said that relevant federal ministries have the full details on the spending of repatriated Abacha loot. The Bank noted that there was no funds monitoring and tracking mechanism in place to trace the spending of Abacha loot.
“Third, Mr. Rachid Benmessaoud confirmed that the World Bank played a monitoring role in a return of assets by Switzerland but that the Bank is not currently involved in the monitoring of spending of Abacha loot that have been returned to Nigeria in recent years. He said that the Bank would be prepared to set up a mechanism to monitor the use of Abacha loot if the Nigerian government requests the Bank’s assistance in this respect.
“Given Mrs Okonjo-Iweala’s involvement in the spending of Abacha loot, SERAP calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently probe the role of the Ministry of Finance and relevant federal ministries at the time in the spending of Abacha loot particularly given the strong allegations of mismanagement that characterised the use of the funds.
“Although Mrs Okonjo-Iweala said that Abacha loot was spent in the 2004 and 2005 budgets on roads, electricity, education, water and health across all six geo-political zones of Nigeria, there is no evidence of such projects as millions of Nigerians continue to travel on dead roads, while they continue to lack access to adequate electricity supply, water, health and quality education. Therefore, President Buhari can no longer continue to remain silent on this issue of public interest if Nigerians are to continue to trust him in his fight against corruption”,
SERAP stated. SERAP had received a letter from the World Bank dated 15 October 2015 and signed by Ann May of the Access to Information Team, in which the bank stated: “In response to your request under AI3982, we would like to inform you that we are still considering your request and need additional time to provide you with a more comprehensive response.”
“In most cases, we will be able to respond within twenty (20) working days from receipt of a request for information. However, we may need additional time in special circumstances, for example, if the request is complex or voluminous or if it requires further review by or consultation with internal World Bank units, external parties, the Access to Information Committee, or the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors.”
The October 15 World Bank letter was in response to an earlier letter dated September 21, 2015 in which SERAP had requested from the bank’s President, Jim Yong Kim, an exercise of his prerogative to “release documents relating to spending of recovered assets stolen by Late General Sani Abacha”.
The group also asked Mr. Yong Kim to “disclose information about the Bank’s role in the implementation of any projects funded by the recovered assets and any other on-going repatriation initiatives on Nigeria with which the Bank is engaged.”
– Our Reporter