Nigeria has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Switzerland for the return of $321 million looted by former Nigerian military ruler Sani Abacha, will be returned to the country.The report by a local newspaper, the Vanguard on Tuesday, said that Nigeria's Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami signed the MOU with Swiss authorities on Monday in Zurich.
These funds being returned to Nigeria - initially frozen in Luxembourg - were confiscated by Switzerland as part of criminal proceedings brought by the public prosecutor's office of Geneva against Abba Abacha in December 2014. He has been accused of stealing as much as $5 billion during his time in power. "The agreement also regulates the disbursement of restituted funds in tranches and sets out concrete measures to be taken in the event of misuse or corruption", the Swiss government said this week.
"The MoU stipulates that the restitution of funds will take place within the framework of a project known as the National Social Investment Programme that will strengthen social security for the poor in Nigeria". The World Bank will monitor the repatriation of the funds to ensure they are used to benefit the poorest Nigerians and are not stolen.
"In accordance with policy on repayment of national assets taken illegally, Switzerland has agreed with Nigeria and the World Bank to return almost $321 million..."
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In 2006, the World Bank was involved in a similar effort providing institutional support for the sustainable use of repatriated funds from Switzerland amounting to approximately $723 million, which was illicitly acquired by the late General Sani Abacha's family. The Country Director of the World Bank office in Abuja, Rachid Benmessaoud, signed for the World Bank. The core of StAR's work lies in country engagements that aim at building the capacity of the various stakeholders engaged in asset recovery and facilitating worldwide cooperation on asset recovery cases.
In December 2017, StAR provided organizational support for the Global Forum on Asset Recovery, which was hosted by the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom.
Recovering the "Abacha loot" has been a major priority for Nigeria.
The World Bank is also helping governments build systems for asset disclosure by public officials and to protect against money laundering.
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