Nigeria has embarked on an international campaign to press Liechtenstein into returning €185m (about N40.1bn) linked to the late military dictator General Sani Abacha, which is still harboured in the tiny principality nearly 14 years after recovery proceedings began.
The Federal Government first requested assistance from Liechtenstein in returning the assets in 2000, two years after Gen Abacha’s sudden death paved the way for the return of civilian rule.
Criminal investigations and subsequent forfeiture proceedings established that the funds originated from bribes paid by Germany’s Ferrostaal AG to companies whose ultimate beneficiary was Gen Abacha. They related to a grossly inflated contract for the construction of an aluminium smelter, according to a Financial Times report.
Liechstenstein’s constitutional court ordered the confiscation of the funds in 2012 and in March 2013 dismissed a final appeal against the order by companies linked to the Abacha family, clearing the way for restitution of the funds.
But the Liechtenstein government has declined to accept written guarantees from Nigeria that it will compensate the principality in the unlikely event that it should incur any liabilities in a further suit that has been filed by the Abacha-linked companies at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This could delay the return of the funds for several more years.
The late Gen. Abacha was the penultimate and most brutal of Nigeria’s military rulers. He and what Switzerland’s Supreme Court dubbed the “Abacha family criminal enterprise” amassed a fortune worth several billion dollars from misappropriation of public funds during his 1993-1998 rule. The lawyer representing the Abacha family could not be reached for comment.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s minister for economy and finance and the former managing director of the World Bank, described the delays as “outrageous” and accused the Liechtenstein government of being uncooperative.
She told the Financial Times she plans to appeal for support for Nigeria’s claims at this week’s International Monetary Fund and World Bank meetings.
“This is about funds that were stolen by a corrupt dictator. We have spent nearly 14 years trying to get them back and we are pleading with the Liechtenstein authorities not to aid and abet the continuation of that corruption,” Mrs Okonjo-Iweala said.
Liechtenstein officials defend the delay as the result of the case in Strasbourg which would, if the court accepts to hear it, address the plaintiffs’ rights to a fair hearing under article 6 of the European convention on human rights. The European court cannot overrule Liechtenstein court rulings restoring the funds but officials in the principality fear they could be laid open to compensation claims from the Abacha-linked companies.
“Unfortunately, now we are in a situation where we have a final judgment, we have the assets and the government wants to return those assets to Nigeria, but four entities have filed a case at the ECHR,” Robert Wallner, Liechtenstein’s attorney-general said.
“Even though their chances of winning are low we lawyers know we can never be sure of the outcome.”
Enrico Monfrini, a Swiss lawyer working with the Nigerian government, has traced $2.4bn of assets linked to Gen. Abacha, most of which were channelled through European banks. Nigeria has recovered $1.3bn (N208b), the largest tranche of which – $500m – came from Switzerland in 2005. A further $1.1bn – in France, the UK, Luxembourg and the Channel island of Jersey – is still tied up in legal proceedings.
“Every other country where a final court decision was taken, paid back immediately,” Mr Monfrini said, taking issue with Liechtenstein for failing to accept the Nigerian guarantee relating to the Strasbourg case. “They don’t want to trust these people because they are Africans, although the balance sheet of Nigeria is a lot better than France or Spain. I would call this a neo-colonialist attitude.”
Nigeria has engaged the World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery unit, Star, set up by Mrs Okonjo Iweala herself when she was at the bank, to monitor the use of the funds once they are returned – as it has done with other recovered assets. But Liechtenstein wants the World Bank to play a greater role as guarantor.
“We want the World Bank to discuss with us and develop different opportunities to how we can bring the money back,” a senior official at the Justice ministry said. “We are OK to pay the money back but we want to have an opportunity to be on the safe side…It is a long process but it is a fair proceeding,” the official said.
UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres Reacts To Police Brutality In Nigeria
United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres has called for the end of police brutality in Nigeria.
According to the Twitter handle of the United Nation Spokesperson, the UN General Secretary condemns the violent attack on innocent Nigerians.
Speaking further, Antonio said the United Nations is following the developing story in the nation and calls for immediate end of the violent clashes that claimed many lives.
Read his tweet below;
— UN Spokesperson (@UN_Spokesperson) October 21, 2020
This is coming following the Lekki Toll Gate massacre that claimed 49 lives on Tuesday, 20 October, 2020, in Lagos.
#EndSARS: ‘Forces beyond my control shot at protesters in Lekki’, says Sanwo-Olu
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has ordered an immediate investigation into the shootings at Lekki, hours after he imposed a curfew in the state.
Men dressed in military gear opened fire on unarmed protesters at the Lekki toll gate around 7pm on Tuesday, October 20, leaving many dead, injured and hospitalised.
The lights and security cameras were turned off before the shootings began.
“Members of the Nigerian army pulled up on us and they started firing. They were shooting, they were firing straight at us and a lot of people got hit. I just barely survived,” says Akinbosola Ogunsanya, who was at the scene of the incident.
The protesters have been calling for an end to police brutality since October 4; and had blocked the Lekki-Epe toll gate, Lekki-Ikoyi link bridge and other major roads in Lagos, while staging sit-in, candle-lit processions for victims of police brutality.
The protests had turned violent and fatal in Lagos and across the country, however, with hoodlums hijacking the marches and burning down police stations for effect.
Sanwo-Olu announced a 24-hour curfew at noon of October 20 in a bid to curtail the violence and halt the anarchy.
The governor initially announced that the curfew would commence at 4pm. This was later moved to 9pm.
The men in military gear opened fire on the unarmed protesters two hours before the curfew was billed to kick off.
Reports say at least 10 people died during the shooting.
Sanwo-Olu, who said he never gave the order, added that he’s visited the scene of the incident and hospitals.
“This is the toughest night of our lives as forces beyond our direct control have moved to make dark notes in our history, but we will face it and come out stronger,” the governor said.
“I’ve just concluded visits to hospitals with victims of this unfortunate shooting incident at Lekki.
“It has taken me this long to make a statement because I have to prioritize the welfare of the victims of this very sad incident.”
This is the toughest night of our lives as forces beyond our direct control have moved to make dark notes in our history, but we will face it and come out stronger.
I’ve just concluded visits to hospitals with victims of this unfortunate shooting incident at Lekki . pic.twitter.com/r5idAn9Pxw
— Babajide Sanwo-Olu (@jidesanwoolu) October 21, 2020
Sanwo-Olu also said he’s going to address residents of the state formally at dawn.
“There are currently 10 patients at the General Hospital, 11 at Reddington and 4 at Vedic; with mild to moderate levels of injuries while 2 are receiving intensive medical care.
“3 patients have been discharged and we will continue to monitor and ensure all patients get the best care.
“As the governor of our state, I recognize the buck stops at my table and I will work with the federal government to get to the root of this unfortunate incident and stabilise all security operations to protect the lives of our residents.
“I will give a state broadcast in the morning,” he added.
Nigeria Police Shooting Live Rounds At Yaba, Lagos
Popular Nigeria Instagram comedian, Mr Macaroni just tweeted an ongoing shooting at Adekunle, Yaba in Lagos.
In the tweet, the twitter said the Nigeria Police are the ones shooting.
Watch Video below;
Policemen are shooting live rounds at Adekunle, YABA right now. On Herbert Macaulay. Please stay safe everyone!!
— DeboMacaroni (@mrmacaronii__) October 21, 2020
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