SERAP demands return of $500M Abacha's loot

SERAP has demanded the return of $500m loot traced to the late Head of State, Sani Abacha.

U.S. President Donald Trump (C) signs an Executive Order establishing extreme vetting of people coming to the United States after attending a swearing-in ceremony for Defense Secretary James Mattis.

In a recent statement issued by SERAP's executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the civil society group urges Trump's “administration to attach and release to Nigeria some $500 million worth of US-based proceeds of corruption traced to former Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha.”

The organization said that, “these proceeds are separate from the $480 million 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."

In the open letter dated February 3, 2017 and signed by SERAP’s US Volunteer Counsel, Professor Alexander W. Sierck, the civil group told Mr Trump that, “the US Department of Justice must promptly initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings against these proceeds 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 in part: “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.”

“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.

“To that end, the respective governments ought to commit to promptly sharing information with relevant civil society organizations on stolen assets of Nigerian origin located in the US or otherwise subject to US jurisdiction. This proposed commitment is similar to one between the US and Kenya as well as consistent with Articles 46(4) and 56 of the UN Convention Against Corruption.

“SERAP notes that Article 51 of the UN Convention against Corruption provides for the return of “corrupt” assets to countries of origin as a fundamental principle. Article 43 provides likewise. Similarly, under Articles 47(3)(a) and (b) states parties have an obligation to return forfeited or confiscated assets in cases of public corruption, as here, or when the requesting party reasonably establishes either prior ownership or damages to the states.”

“In SERAP’s judgment, some or all of these requirements have been met with respect to the $500 million in proceeds described above. A resolution adopted by the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention Against Corruption in Panama in November 2013 reaffirms this obligation, by requiring state to make “every effort” to return such proceeds. to the victim state.

“Nigeria’s Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption has recently informed SERAP that the US Government has identified another $500 million or so proceeds of Nigerian corruption subject to US jurisdiction,” the statement read in full.

It would be recalled that last month the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay had raised the alarm that Nigeria risked losing another $550m recovered from the Abacha family to the government of United States.

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