A civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has urged the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), to seek from the Government of the United States of America (USA) the repatriation of the forfeiture order on $401,931 in assets belonging to the former Governor of Baylelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha.
Alamieyeseigha was convicted by a Federal High Court in Lagos in 2009 on an offence bordering on money laundering and unjust enrichment while in office.
In the letter dated September 11, 2012, and signed by SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the group said: “On June 28, 2012, the US Department of Justice obtained the first forfeiture judgment ever issued under the new Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative against Alamieyeseigha.”
In the letter obtained by THISDAY, the group noted that the initiative was designed to “target and recover the proceeds of foreign official corruption that have been laundered into or through the United States.”
It also said the Nigerian government has not yet made a request for the repatriation of the stolen wealth, adding that the failure to repatriate the recovered assets illustrates the government’s attitude to recovery of stolen assets.
“Yet, being a state party to the UN Convention against Corruption, Nigeria has a legal obligation to make a request for mutual legal assistance to the US for the return of the assets. The Convention describes asset recovery as its “fundamental principle” and requires state parties to “afford one another the widest measure of cooperation and assistance in this regard,” the group added.
“SERAP’s US volunteer counsel, Professor Alexander W. Sierck, is in high level discussion with US officials on the matter but without the Nigerian government taking the initiative, the process will not go far,” the group also stated.
According to the group, repatriating the stolen assets would contribute to the fight against impunity of perpetrators as would-be corrupt suspects will know that they will never be allowed to keep and enjoy their ill-gotten wealth.
It also argued that the repatriation of the assets and other stolen wealth would also enhance the ability of the government to provide basic necessities of life such as healthcare, water, and electricity to millions of Nigerians who continue to face extreme poverty and misery.
The group further urged the government to “use the repatriated assets to set up a trust fund for the benefit of the millions of vulnerable and disadvantaged Nigerians who are the victims of high level corruption.
“Any allocation and spending from such fund must be subjected to anti-corruption safeguards so that recovered assets can be spent on public health or education projects, or to provide other basic necessities of life to millions of Nigerians living in poverty.
“Setting up a trust fund for victims of corruption is entirely consistent with Nigeria’s international human rights obligations and commitments. In fact, Article 79 of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC) provides for the establishment of separate trust funds into which criminal penalties and asset forfeiture proceeds are paid.
“These trust funds should benefit the victims of the crimes committed by the accused. They should serve as a model for the Nigerian government in the efforts to achieve a transparent and accountable spending of recovered stolen assets,” the group also argued.
The group urged Adoke to use his position to prevail on President Goodluck Jonathan to develop a national strategy on asset recovery and spending that would aim to ensure that all stolen assets are promptly recovered and spent for the benefit of Nigerians.