Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The newly-repatriated $311 million recovered from the assets of the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, to Nigeria from the United States would be fully utilised as agreed, the Presidency assured the nation yesterday.
The Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) had announced on Monday the return of $311 million from the United States and Jersey to the country after intense negotiations.
The fund, according to a statement from the AGF’s office, had risen from the earlier $308 million the federal government negotiated for in February as a result of accrued interest.
Presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, in a statement, said parts of the fund would be utilised for the execution of three major capital projects in accordance with federal government’s agreement with the US.
He added that the remaining parts would be deployed to create jobs and enhance skills in the construction sector.
According to him, the fund has already been earmarked to finance the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Second Niger bridge, and Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Expressway.
“These funds have already been allocated, and will be used in full, for vital and decades-overdue infrastructure development: the Second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan and Abuja-Kaduna-Kano expressways – creating tens of thousands of Nigerian construction jobs and local skills, which can then be useful in future projects.
“Part of the funds will also be invested in the Mambilla Power Project which, when completed, will provide electricity to some three million homes – over ten million citizens – in our country,” he said.
According to him, the fund and others earlier returned from the United Kingdom and Switzerland, would be utilised for the country’s development.
He explained that without the earlier repatriated funds, the ongoing fight against COVID-19 would have been tough.
“Without these funds, the fight against COVID-19 would be even tougher,” he said.
He described the receipt of the funds as an attestation to the stronger relationship between Nigeria and the United States.
Shehu said it was the combined cooperation of the government of the UK and US respectively as well as the involvement of the US government that facilitated the return of different funds from both countries.
“The receipt of these stolen monies – and the hundreds of millions more that have already been returned from the United Kingdom and Switzerland – are an opportunity for the development of our nation, made far harder for those decades the country was robbed of these funds
“The latest return is a testament to the growing and deepening relationship between the government of Nigeria and the government of the United States.
“Without the cooperation both from the UK government, the US executive branch and the US Congress, we would not have achieved the return of these funds at all,” he added.
The statement said the funds were not handed to previous governments because affected countries could not trust them with such funds.
It explained further that the $320 million earlier repatriated from Switzerland is “already being used for the government’s free school feeding scheme, a stipend for millions of disadvantaged citizens, and grain grants for those in severe food hardship.”