Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The Nigerian Civil Society Organisations have hailed the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Nigerian government and the Swiss authorities paving the way for the repatriation of the at $321million Abacha loot to Nigeria.
This was disclosed after the first Global Forum on Asset Recovery, (GFAR) inaugural meeting in the United States urging both sponsors (US and UK governments) of the GFAR Summit to emulate the determination of the Swiss authorities to track, freeze and return all looted Nigerian wealth and assets in their countries.
The Executive Director for African Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Rev David Ugolor, said in a statement wednesday that the NGOs were delighted that the looted wealth is coming back to Nigeria.
He said the GFAR momentum has provided an enabling environment for genuine collective action towards returning stolen assets and the participation of civil society in the monitoring framework to ensure transparency and accountability in the process.
“We hope this will encourage the US, UK, and others to walk the talk of GFAR political commitment to ensure a speedy return of all stolen assets from Nigeria still in the US and UK”, the Rev Ugolor said.
The GFAR Summit meeting is an offshoot of the 2016 Anti-Corruption conference convened by erstwhile British Prime Minister, David Cameron, in recognition of the negative role which corruption plays in reducing the human capital value of most developing countries.
Sponsored by the US and the British governments, the focus of the Washington Summit was on the asset recovery initiative and efforts of four countries – Nigeria, Tunisia, Sri Lanka and the Ukraine. Prior to this Global Forum. A pre-GFAR conference was convened with the aim of bringing Nigerian CSOs together to build an enduring framework for asset recovery, pursuant to the establishment of an asset recovery unit in Nigeria.
Both the World Bank and the Swiss government have agreed to a terms of reference for the independent monitoring of the restituted account by Nigerian CSOs and for the fund to be used exclusively for social investment for the poor in Nigeria by way of cash transfers to enable them start small businesses and provide them with a source of livelihood.
“This is a welcome development and its utilisation for development purposes would go a long way in mitigating our development crises. We commend the Swiss government for once again showing their profound commitment toward completion of the recovery process, and other actors who make the signing of the MoU possible today. This is a victory for Nigerians, a victory for all victims of corruption,” Yusuf Shamsudeen of the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, said.
In the same vein, Olanrewaju Suraju, Chairman of HEDA Resource Centre, Nigeria said that ‘the symbolic signing of this MoU is indicative of potentialities of the GFAR forum. It is a recognition of Civil Society Organisation’s active engagement in the process leading to this MoU, a distinctive departure from the past practice of government to government agreement resulting in a re-looting of recovered funds.