Nigeria receives $311 mln Abacha loot, deploys money into infrastructure

Nigeria on Monday confirmed receiving $311 mln from the United States and Jersey decades after the funds were stolen by former military head of state, late General Sani Abacha, the justice minister said.

Justice Minister Abubakar Malami said the recovery of the funds “further consolidates” the government’s record on repatriating stolen money, citing an earlier deal with Switzerland that saw $322 million returned in 2018.

It plans to deploy the money into major interstate road projects in Lagos-Ibadan, Kano-Abuja and the completion of an ongoing bridge, the Second Niger Bridge.

The money is part of an estimated $5 billion (4.6 billion euros) plundered by military ruler Abacha from 1993 until his death in 1998. 

Malami said the $311 million, which included $3 million in interest, had been laundered through the US banking system before being held in bank accounts in Jersey, a British dependency in the Channel Islands. 

He said the money would be used to fund infrastructure projects, including the construction of roads and a bridge.

“In line with the 2020 Asset Return Agreement, the fund has been transferred to a Central Bank of Nigeria Asset Recovery designated account and would be paid to the National Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) within the next fourteen days,” he said. 

The NSIA would be responsible for the management of the projects, Malami added. 

Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, depends on the sector for 70 percent of government revenue and is struggling to finance its 2020 budget because of falling crude prices and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The government has cut the budget and turned to local and external borrowing to shore up its finances.

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