Alex Enumah in Abuja
As Nigeria continues to liaise with other countries abroad on the repatriation of looted funds stashed abroad it has emerged that the exact figures of looted funds outside the country may be difficult to ascertain.
This is due to the complexity and dynamics of legislations, culture and policies of various countries regarding the repatriation of the funds.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), gave this indication yesterday at a Media Roundtable on Open Government Partnership (OGP), in Abuja.
The Minister in response to questions from journalist on the exact amount of looted funds outside the country stated that “It is impossible to give a clear figure against the background of complexity, differences of rules, approach and processes, at international communities. Also, investigations which are ongoing and keep changing, and there are also cases in court with different jurisdiction and dynamics, so it is impossible to arrive at an exact amount”.
However, Malami hinted that the government was not resting on its oars as it continues to synergise with foreign governments and their anti-corruption agencies to ensure not only that the funds are returned but they support the nation’s crusade against corruption by ensuring looted funds don’t find their ways into their countries.
He added that the Open Government Partnership to which Nigeria became a signatory last July would enhance the nation’s drive in this regard. “We will work with the network of OGP implementing countries for technical support especially in repatriating our stolen funds that are currently stashed away abroad.
“It is a process of continuous learning, collaboration and improvement for all of us and I invite the media to join hands with the government to communicate all of these innovative ongoing reform efforts to Nigerians in a very simple language not just at the federal and states levels but also in the local communities”, he said.
The minister disclosed that in order to achieve this, he had given approval for the establishment of a functional project office in the Ministry of Justice, Specifically designated to foster partnership and collaboration with stakeholders who may want to know what the government was doing under the OGP initiative.
On the complaint that assets declared by public officers at the Code of Conduct Bureau were not made public the minister urged Nigerians to make use of the Freedom of Information Act, which enables Nigerians to freely access information from any agency of the government.
According to him, section 1 of the Act vest powers on individuals or corporate bodies to apply for any information and get it without restraints, adding that the Act is not just a policy statement of government but a legislative commitment to ensure transparency and accountability.
The OGP which is a global initiative, is a multi-stakeholder initiative focused on improving government transparency, accountability and responsiveness to citizens through technology and innovation. Nigeria formally joined the initiative in July this year as the 70th country.
According to Malami, “There cannot be a better time to join the initiative than now as the principle of OGP fit into existing efforts of this administration to ensure that all conduits through which public resources are filtered are permanently blocked and anyone caught pilfering public funds no matter how highly placed is made to face the full wrath of the law”.