The United States of America Embassy in Nigeria has told Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) that it was going to inform President Donald J. Trump of its (SERAP’s) letter requesting the release to Nigeria, about $500million looted by late General Sani Abacha.
SERAP had in a letter dated February 3, 2017 and signed by the organisation’s US Volunteer counsel, Professor Alexander W. Sierck and its executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, to the US Embassy in Nigeria, told Mr Trump that the US Department of Justice must promptly initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings against the $500million proceeds of corruption so as to fulfil several non-controversial commitments by the US to assist Nigeria in recovering assets looted by former Nigerian government officials.
In their reply the embassy said, “We will relay your letter to President Donald J. Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson requesting the administration to attach and release to Nigeria some $500million worth of US-based proceeds of corruption traced to former Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha.”
It further disclose that, “the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are in regular communication with the Nigerian Attorney General and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding further cooperation needed to conclude pending asset forfeiture cases and to develop a mechanism for the timely and transparent repatriation of those assets.”
The embassy letter was signed by David J. Young, Deputy Chief of Mission.
Part of the letter read, “Thank you for your letter regarding the recovery of Nigerian assets. As part of the 2010 Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, the US Department of Justice has sought to forfeit the proceeds of corruption by foreign officials [including from Nigeria], and where appropriate, to use recovered assets to benefit the people who were harmed. This policy is consistent with US treaty obligations, including the UN Convention against Corruption.
“The United States Government supports the Government of Nigeria’s efforts to work with civil society to identify how harm can be remedied through the return of stolen assets. We encourage you to disclose these issues with the Nigerian Attorney General and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who are working closely with the US on the repatriation process.
“We were encouraged by civil society’s role in the development of Nigeria’s Open Government Partnership Action Plan and the commitment to strengthening laws to foster transparency and accountability in the management of recovered and returned assets.”
SERAP had claimed in its letter that “the $500million proceeds are separate from the $480million of Abacha-origin funds that have been forfeited to the US under an August 2014 US federal district court order.
SERAP’s request is fully consistent with the UN Convention Against Corruption, which both the US and Nigeria have ratified.
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