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BREAKING: US, Nigeria Agree To Return $308m Loot By Abacha

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On Monday, 3 February 2020, 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 over US$308 million of forfeited assets to Nigeria.

The funds were laundered 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 son of the former Head of State of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha. 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.

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

At the time the case was filed as part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative in 2013, it was the largest U.S. kleptocracy forfeiture action ever commenced. In 2014 the Attorney General of Jersey applied for, and was granted, a Property Restraint Order over the Jersey bank account balance of Doraville. This was challenged in the Royal Court of Jersey and Court of Appeal, and an application for permission to appeal to the Privy Council by Doraville was refused. France and the United Kingdom restrained additional funds at U.S. request.

General Abacha and his associates stole and laundered many hundreds of millions of dollars of public money during his military regime, doing vast harm to the futures of his own people. The monies were laundered by his family, including his sons Ibrahim and Mohammed, and a number of close associates. The laundering operation extended to the United States and European jurisdictions such as the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Luxembourg.

In 2018, Governments of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, United States of America and the Bailiwick of Jersey commenced the negotiation of the procedures for the repatriation, transfer, disposition and management of the assets. The tripartite agreement signed this week represents a major watershed in international cooperation in asset recovery and repatriation, and will provide benefit to people throughout Nigeria.

The projects on which the funds will be expended will be administered by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority and independently audited. The Federal Republic of Nigeria will establish a Monitoring Team to oversee the implementation of the projects and to report regularly on progress. The Nigerian government, in consultation with the other Parties, will also engage Civil Society Organisations, who have expertise in substantial infrastructure projects, civil engineering, anti-corruption compliance, anti-human trafficking compliance, and procurement to provide additional monitoring and oversight.

The Solicitor General and Attorney General designate of Jersey, Mark Temple QC, who signed the Agreement on behalf of Jersey, commented:

“This Agreement represents the culmination of two decades of intensive work by Law 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.

“The Agreement establishes a framework based on fruitful co-operation, trust and respect so that the forfeited funds can be repatriated to benefit the people of Nigeria, from whom they had been taken. The use of the funds will be subject to monitoring and reporting obligations.

“This is a very significant achievement, and, once again, demonstrates Jersey’s commitment to tackling international financial crime and money laundering.”

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.

“I would like to offer my sincere thanks and appreciation to the dedicated team within the Law Officers’ Department, and their colleagues in United States and Nigeria. Their excellent level of cooperation in the fight against corruption, at domestic and international levels, should be an example for other jurisdictions to follow.

“As a leading international finance centre with an effective and robust regulatory regime, Jersey has a responsibility to firmly address any instances of alleged money laundering and corruption. Our commitment to seeing these funds repatriated has led to a positive outcome for the people of Nigeria, has established lasting partnerships and given us a pioneering role in asset-recovery that is based on the principles of national interest, trust and mutual respect.”

Deputy Assistant Attorney Brian Benczkowski announced the agreement on behalf of the United States and stated:

“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, and in a manner that ensures transparent and accountable use of the funds. This is a major achievement. It also stands as a clear statement of our commitment to safeguard the United States from those who seek to launder the proceeds of corruption through the abuse of our financial system.”

Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Nigeria who signed on behalf of the Nigerian government noted that this 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.

He noted further that “without the commitment of the three parties to the Agreement (Nigeria, Jersey and the United States) and that of the legal experts and Attorneys representing Nigeria, it would have been impossible to achieve the success recorded today.

Mr. Malami, also stated that “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 – namely Lagos – Ibadan expressway, Abuja – Kano express way and the second Niger bridge. These projects currently been executed under the supervision of the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) 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.“

He urged for greater cooperation and mutual respect amongst countries in the implementation of expeditious cooperation measures already set out in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and in the implementation of the GFAR principles on the repatriation of stolen assets.

He called for civil society organizations and the Nigerian public to be involved in the monitoring of the implementation of the key infrastructure projects that will greatly enhance road transportation in Nigeria.

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Buhari Presides Over Virtual FEC Meeting

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President Muhammadu Buhari is currently presiding over a virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the State House, Abuja.

The meeting, which started at 09:02 GMT has the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), Secretary to Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, as well as some Ministers in attendance.

Ministers present in the hall include those of Justice, Aviation, Finance, Information and Culture, Environment, Water Resources, Defence and Works.

All other Ministers are attending form their various offices in the nation’s capital city, Abuja.

The meeting is expected to consider issues surrounding how the nation can mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 and how to enhance the livelihood of Nigerians in the midst of the pandemic.

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Senate Okays Buhari’s $5.513bn Loan Request

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The Senate on Tuesday approved President Muhammadu Buhari’s $5.513 billion external loan request to finance the revised 2020 budget.

The approval followed the presentation and consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Senator Clifford Odia (Edo Central) by the upper chamber.

Buhari had, in his letter of request, said the $5.513 billion external loan is to enable the Federal Government fund the 2020 revised budget.

However, the components of the external loan, which is to enable the Federal Government execute its priority projects and for projects to support state governments in stimulating their economy, which has been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, was stood down by the Senate due to lack of requisite details.

A lender for the Federal Government’s priority projects as approved by the Senate is the African Development Bank (AfDB) – $125million to strengthen healthcare system and improve response to COVID-19 and $23 million for financing smallholder farmers to mitigate food security impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Others are $600million from the Islamic Development Bank to support response to challenges posed by COVID-19 and $500 million from the African Export-Import Bank to provide critical medical supplies to combat COVID-19.

Also, the Senate passed the 2020-2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP) of the Federal Government.

President Muhammadu Buhari had last Thursday, in a letter, urged the upper chamber to consider and approve the 2020-2022 MTEF/FSP.

The Senate approved the recommendation of the Senator Solomon Adeola-led Senate Committee on Finance that the price of crude oil put at $25 per barrel by the Federal Government, be increased to $28 per barrel.

The upper chamber also approved that the proposed daily oil production benchmark of 1.9 million barrel per day be reduced to 1.8mbd.

The Senate also backed the proposed exchange rate, which was moved by the Federal Government from N306 to one dollar to N360 per dollar.

This development invariably shows that the Senate has thrown its weight behind the devaluation of the naira.

However, other critical parameters like the exchange rate of N360 to a US dollar, 14.43 inflation growth rate and 4.42 GDPgrowth rate were retained.

Other assumptions retained are N5.09 trillion Federal Governmnet’s revenue, N10.51 trillion, N4.95 trillion fiscal deficit and N4.17 trillion new borrowings (including foreign and domestic borrowing).

Others are N398.5 billion as statutory transfers, N2.68 trillion for debt service, N272.9 billion as sinking fund and N536.7 billion for Pension and gratuities.

The Senate also retained other components of the proposal in the MTEF/FSP includingN10.51 trillion as total expenditure, N4.93 trillion as total recurrent, N2.83 trillion for personnel cost and N2.23 trillion for capital expenditure.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Solomon Adeola in his report, said the increase in the oil price benchmark from the proposed $25 to $28 was as a result of the recent upward trend of the price of crude oil in the international market.

According to him, the price oil per barrel is now $38 with a very strong indication that the price will rise to $40 or $45 per barrel.

President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, in his remarks after the passage of the MTEF/FSP, urged the Senate Committee on Privatisation to laise with the Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) in ensuring that the projected N260billion from proceeds of privatised agencies are realised and used to fund critical projects in the revised 2020 budget.

He faulted some special accounts being operated by the executive particularly the Natural Resources Development Accounts.

According to him, such accounts at this time of scarcity of funds, are not all necessary.

“Keeping monies in Natural Resources Development Accounts is more of waste than serving critical purposes,” he said.

He thereafter adjourned sitting to next week Tuesday for consideration and possible passage of the revised N10.509 trillion 2020 budget.

However, the intention of the Federal Government to borrow Euro 995million from the Export-Import Bank of Brazil to support Green Imperative and enhance the mechanisation of agriculture and agro-processing in the country, was put in abeyance by the upper chamber.

Also, the ongoing negotiation by the Federal Government with the World Bank for between $500million – $750 million for COVID-19 Action Recovery and Economic Stimulus Programme to support state-level efforts to protect livelihoods, ensure food security and stimulate economic activities, has not been approved.

Additionally, $500 – $750 million also being negotiated with the World Bank for State Fiscal Transparency and Sustainability Programme to provide fiscal support to the States was not approved.

The Committee said that it would consider the proposals when it gets requisite details on what the loans would be used for from the Minister of Finance, Budget National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.

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Nigeria Records 416 New Cases Of COVID-19 As FG Eases Lockdown

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416 new cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Nigeria on Monday, June 1, 2020, despite the FG lifting some measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus in Nigeria.

The Federal and some state governments have been easing some COVID-19 restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the virus.

Yesterday, the Federal Government on Monday lifted the ban on religious gatherings across the country.

This was disclosed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman of Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, at the daily media briefing in Abuja.

“The PTF submitted its recommendations and the PRESIDENT has approved the following for implementation over the next four weeks spanning 2nd – 29th June, 2020, subject to review-:

“Cautious advance into the Second Phase of the national response to COVID-19; application of science and data to guide the targeting of areas of on-going high transmission of COVID-19 in the country;

“Mobilisation of all resources at State and Local Government levels to create public awareness on COVID 19 and improve compliance with non-pharmaceutical interventions within communities; sustenance of key non-pharmaceutical interventions that would apply nationwide and include: ban of gatherings of more than 20 people outside of a workplace;

“Relaxation of restriction on places of Worship based on guidelines issued by the PTF and protocols agreed by state governments.”

Despite this, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nigeria is still on the rise.

According to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), 192 cases were recorded in Lagos, 41 in Edo, 33 in Rivers, 30 in Kaduna, 23 in Kwara, 18 in Nasarawa, 17 in Borno, 14 in FCT, 10 in Oyo, 7 in Katsina, 5 in Abia, 5 in Delta, 4 in Adamawa, 4 in Kano, 3 in Imo, 3 in Ondo, 2 in Benue, 2 in Ogun and 1 in Niger state.

In total, Nigeria has recorded 10578 cases of COVID-19. 3122 patients have been discharged from various Isolation centers across the country, while 299 deaths have been recorded.

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