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Nigerian group begs Trump to return $500m Abacha loot

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Nigerian group begs Trump to return $500m Abacha loot

A non-governmental advocacy group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has written to the United States President, Donald Trump, requesting that he authorize the release to Nigeria of about $500 million, being the proceeds of corruption, traceable to former Nigerian dictator, General Sani Abacha, which still remains in that country.

The organisation said the total estimated amount, which the late dictator starched away in the US was more than $980 million, of which Nigeria had forfeited $480 million to the US under the August 2014 US federal district court order.

SERAP said it had earlier written the US stating that apart from the Abacha loot, there are still other funds invested in the US economy by corrupt Nigerian officials.

In the letter dated February 3, 2017 and signed by SERAPS’s US Volunteer Counsel, Professor Alexander W. Sierck and Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group told Trump that the US Department of Justice is expected to initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings so as to fulfill several non-controversial commitments by the US to assist Nigeria in recovering assets looted by former Nigerian government officials.

The letter, a copy of which was sent to the US ambassador to Nigeria Stuart Symington, and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, reads: “SERAP urges your new administration to initiate discussions with the Nigerian government to fulfill these objectives within an agreed framework and timeline. Simultaneously, the administration should instruct the Justice Department to initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings in regard to the above-referenced $500 million in assets described above.

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“Any bilateral discussions between the US and Nigeria concerning these assets should include clear acknowledgement of the significant role that civil society plays in asset recovery matters.”

It challenged the Trump-led administration to show its commitment to doing things differently by giving the request an accelerated hearing.

But Mr. Bernard Ituya, a senior advocate said the letter by the group would have carried more weight had the Nigerian Justice Ministry and the Foreign Affairs Ministry followed up the move with a similar request.

“The US will want to know the reaction of the relevant government agencies and ministry before giving the letter from SERAP the much-needed attention, ” he said.

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