FG fails to account for $4b Abacha loot
The Federal Government is yet to account for about $4 billion recovered from the late Head of State, Gen Sani Abacha, human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, (SAN) told an audience of anti-corruption crusaders in Abuja on Wednesday.
He said since 1999, the Federal authority has recovered about $4 billion of public funds stolen by Abacha, but that Nigerians are not aware of how the fund was expended by the government.
Participants at the conference agreed that the lack of accountability for stolen funds has raised credibility problems for Nigeria in the comity of nations.
Falana spoke at the Anti-Corruption Situation Room (ACSR) conference organized by the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre) which focused on Reviewing the Efforts of State and Non-State Actors in the Fight Against Corruption in Nigeria.
The conference was attended by local and international representatives and chaired by the Country Representative of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, (UNODC), Dr Oliver Stolpe.
Speaking at the event, the Representative of Mac Arthur Foundation, Mr Dayo Olaide said fighting corruption remains a major step to lifting Nigeria’s standards
The HEDA Chairman, Mr. Olarewaju Suraju, said his group will continue to vigorously pursue anti-corruption campaign saying that sleaze is not unconnected with violence in some parts of the country.
The participants emphasized transparency in public expenditure as a necessary ingredient for economic growth and wealth creation.
Falana said it was lack of accountability by the Nigerian government that prompted the cautionary insult of a US State Department official who mocked Nigerian leaders asking them to ensure accountability in the disbursement of the latest over $308 million warehoused in the Island of Jersey but recently released to Nigeria.
It is the most successful recovery of stolen public funds in the world. We have not been able to account for the money,” Falana said lamenting that a former President said he recovered $2 billion dollars, in eight years, but when he was asked to account for the funds after a court order, the former President said the “Judge was foolish.”
The lawyer urged Nigeria to learn from post-war Rwanda whose President Paul Kagame has been fighting corruption on the four pillars of culture, responsibility, accountability and effectiveness.
He said in spite of the efforts of President Mohammadu Buhari, corruption remains a way of life for many officials of governments in Nigeria.
He said Buhari listed fighting corruption as priority, but that the most important is that the Buhari administration should enforce asset declaration of public officers.
Falana said Nigerians have been battling public officials to make open the assets declared, noting that the Code of Conduct Bureau, (CCB) should be told the secrets surrounding asset declaration in Nigeria is illegal.
Participants came from the National Orientation Agency (NOA), Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the Murshid, Abuja National Mosque, Mac Arthur Foundation, ActionAid Nigeria, ACORN-DFID, the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC), Transparency International, TI, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), TUGAR, AFRICMIL and PTCIJ, the National Assembly and NASS.
In a communiqué, participants condemned the Western countries for offering warehouses for illicit funds.
They argued that some of the Western countries who raise anti-corruption banners indeed are very corrupt in their bilateral and multilateral economic policies.
The participants condemned the subjective narrative of corruption as defined by Western nations which fail to take into consideration the collaboration of the international community, institutions and companies.
An official of Transparency International, TI, Mr Anwal Musa Rafsanjani said the TI report is not about corruption by the Nigerian government but rather focuses onperception and the corruption trends in the country.
Participants noted that the Auditor General of the country reported that several institutions have failed to submit Audited Report contrary to constitutional provisions.
In its recommendations, the summit urged the Executive and the National Assembly to ensure that the budget process is transparent.
Other recommendations were that the Federal Government and the civil society should intensify efforts at tracing and recovery of stolen funds and ensure effective monitoring of the disbursement of such funds by government agencies.
It added further “Nigerians should lead Africa to dismiss the stigma that Africans are a corrupt people when in reality corruption is not culture-specific and that the biggest beneficiaries of corruption are foreign countries who take delight in the warehousing of stolen funds”.
“There is the need for accountability and transparency in the civil society for effective anti-corruption drive.
The passages of pending anti-corruption laws are critical to the anti-corruption campaign as much as the independence of the anti-corruption agencies and their adequate funding” the communiqué noted.