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Nigeria invests $308mn recovered Abacha loot in infrastructure projects3 minutes read

Jersey, Nigeria and US governments entered into an greement to repatriate the US$308 million of forfeited assets to Nigeria after about 20 years of negotiations and court cases.

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PUNCH to address Nigerian President as "Major General" and administration as "regime"
President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria./AFP

The Nigerian government has signed an agreement with the governments of Jersey and United States for the recovery and transfer of $308 million looted by the country’s late former Head of State, General Sani Abacha and said it will be used for the completion of three mega projects: Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Abuja – Kano Expressway and the Second Niger bridge for the benefit of citizens.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami said this in a statement co-signed by Nigeria, Jersey and United States officials released in Abuja late Monday by the US embassy.

The Government of Jersey, the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Government of the United States of America entered into an Asset Recovery Agreement to repatriate the US$308 million of forfeited assets to Nigeria after about 20 years of negotiations and court cases.

“As you are aware, the government of Nigeria has committed that the assets will support and assist in expediting the construction of the three major infrastructure projects across Nigeria,” Malami said.

The justice minister went ahead to state that the projects currently being executed under the supervision of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority “as a public-private partnership (PPP) will boost economic growth and help alleviate poverty by connecting people and supply chains from the East to the West and to the Northern part of Nigeria, a vast area covering several kilometers with millions of the country’s population set to benefit from the road infrastructures.”

The funds were laundered by the late Abacha through the US banking system and then held in bank accounts in Jersey in the name of Doraville Properties Corporation, a BVI company, and in the name of the sons of the former Nigerian Head of State.

In 2014 a U.S. Federal Court in Washington DC forfeited the money as property involved in the illicit laundering of the proceeds of corruption arising in Nigeria during the period from 1993 to 1998 when General Abacha was Head of State.

The case is a result of extensive co-operation between Jersey authorities, the Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section of the US Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Nigerian authorities with crucial assistance from other governments around the world.

The Nigerian minister said the agreement has “culminated in a major victory, for Nigeria and other African countries as it recognizes that crime does not pay and that it is important for the international community to seek for ways to support sustainable development through the recovery and repatriation of stolen assets.”

The US, Jersey and Nigerian governments urged civil society organizations and the Nigerian public to be involved in the monitoring of the key infrastructure projects that will greatly enhance road transportation in the country to ease the burden of Nigerians.

Jersey’s Minister for External Relations, Senator Ian Gorst, said:

“Since becoming aware that the alleged proceeds of Abacha corruption and money laundering had passed through Jersey financial institutions, the Jersey authorities have done everything within their power to investigate what happened and to return the money to its rightful owners, the people of Nigeria.”

US Deputy Assistant Attorney Brian Benczkowski announced the agreement on behalf of the United States.

Benczkowski said “the Department is pleased to enter into this agreement with The Bailiwick of Jersey and the Federal Republic of Nigeria to return this enormous amount of stolen funds for the benefit of the people harmed by the corruption in Nigeria.  Through the recovery of these funds — and this mutual agreement — the people of Nigeria can see the money they lost to corruption in flagrant disregard of the rule of law is returned through a lawful process.”

The agreement represents the culmination of two decades of intensive work by law enforcement officers in Jersey, the United States and Nigeria.

The return of the assets to Nigeria had been delayed by a number of hard-fought challenges by third parties which were defeated in the Courts in Jersey and the United States.

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Politics

Lesotho Prime Minister resigns, to leave office in July

While there’s speculation that his resignation follows mounting pressure over his former and late wife, Thabane attributes his decision to lack of energy.

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Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Thabane./Yahoonews

Prime Minister of Lesotho, Thomas Thabane has announced his resignation. He also failed to show up at a court on Friday for a trial that involved himself and the first lady over the death of his ex-wife.

In a televised speech in the capital in Thursday, Maseru, the 80-year old PM said the decision has been the hardest he’s made in his career and promised to step down in July despite pressure by members of his party.

“Today I wish to reiterate my announcement to retire from office. I might still have the necessary zeal and fervor to continue serving my people and country, but the truth is that at my age I have lost most of my energy. I’m not as energetic as I use to be a few years ago”, he said.

He appealed to all Basotho “not to intentionally misconstrue my announcement to retire from office,” as being linked to his ongoing trial.

While there’s speculation that his resignation follows mounting pressure over his former and late wife, Thabane attributes his decision to lack of energy.

“My fellow countrymen and women it is very unfortunate that some have deliberately decided to distort my decision to retire either motivated by hate or for political gain”, Thabane added in an AFP report.

The Prime Minister was on Friday charged with the murder of 58-year old Lilopelo Thabane, who was murdered in June 2017 by unknown assailants. But he was absent from court and his son said he had gone to South Africa to see a doctor.

“He’s not fled the country, he has gone to South Africa to see a doctor,” Potlako Thabane told Reuters by telephone.

The couple was embroiled in a bitter divorce. Months after assuming office. Thabane married Lesotho’s current first lady, Maesaiah Thabane.

The 48 year old is also facing trial over the murder. She returns to court on March 17.

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Politics

‘Nigeria too important to be on US travel ban’, seeks removal -Interior minister

“Nigeria is too important an ally of America to deserve such a sanction,” Interior Minister, Rauf Aregbesola told the visiting US Ambassador.

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Nigeria's Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola and US Ambassador to Nigeria, Amb. Mary Beth Leonard during a working visit to the minister's office in Abuja on Thursday Feb 20th, 2020 where they discussed issues on the Visa Reciprocity Policy vis-a-vis; Length of Visa Validity, Partial Refund for Rejected Visa Applications, Use of Dropbox amongst others./Twitter: @raufaregbesola/OgundiranDolapo

The Nigerian government has asked the United States to remove it from the list of countries whose citizens are banned from accessing certain categories of visas for long stay or permanent residency by the new policy which took effect on Friday, Feb. 21.

Nigeria’s interior minister, Rauf Aregbesola made the request to drop the ban to the U.S. ambassador in Abuja, a ministry statement said on Thursday.

“Nigeria is too important an ally of America to deserve such a sanction,” Aregbesola said, according to the statement quoted by Reuters.

“We are positive that (the) visa restriction is a temporary one, it will soon be put behind us,” he said, adding that Nigeria had complied with most of the concerns raised by the United States.

The statement did not say how U.S. Ambassador Mary Beth Leonard responded to the request, but it said she assured Aregbesola of “her country’s determination to continue to collaborate with Nigeria”.

U.S. President Donald Trump included Nigeria and five other countries in an expanded version of his travel ban list early this month, sparking outrage from many of them.

U.S. officials have said the six countries failed to meet U.S. security and information-sharing standards, necessitating the new restrictions.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is the biggest country on the list whose citizens will be suspended from U.S. visas that can lead to permanent residency.  

The original travel ban, issued in 2017, barred nearly all immigrants and travellers from seven countries with majority Muslim populations.

The policy was revised amid court challenges, but the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately upheld it in 2018.   

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East Africa Politics News

President Kiir, Machar agree to form South Sudan unity government on Saturday

“We had a meeting with the president on the outstanding issues. We have agreed to form the government on 22 Feb,” Machar, First Vice President-nominee said.

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President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar pledge to power-sharing deal
South Sudan President Salva Kiir and former rebel leader Riek Machar in a previous reconciliation meeting in Kampala, Uganda brokered by President Yoweri Museveni. /AFP

Former rebel and opposition leader, Riek Machar said he has agreed to form a unity government with South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir to meet Saturday’s deadline, following talks at state house on Thursday.

Before the announcement, it had been unclear if the Feb. 22 deadline would be met as key benchmarks of the 2018 peace agreement had not been fulfilled. The deadline had elapsed several times without an agreement between the two sides.

“We had a meeting with the president on the outstanding issues. We have agreed to form the government on 22 Feb,” Machar said.

Kiir confirmed the agreement, a Reuters report said.

“We have agreed to form the government,” he said after the meeting, adding that he will appoint Machar as first vice president on Friday.

“We are going to discuss the security arrangement for the protection of all opposition forces and members,” Kiir added.

All the members of the opposition will be given protection, he added. “And if there are things we have not agreed upon, we had agreed to resolve them. We shall finalise them incoming days,” Kiir said.

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