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Abacha loot: US embassy to forward SERAP’s letter to Trump

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Ramon Oladimeji

Human rights advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, says the United States of America Embassy in Nigeria has promised to inform President Donald Trump of the group’s demand for the repatriation of the $500m looted and kept in the US by late Sanni Abacha.

The group said it recently received a letter from the US Deputy Chief of Mission, David J. Young, stating that “we will relay your letter to President Donald J. Trump and Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, requesting the administration to attach and release to Nigeria some $500m worth of US-based proceeds of corruption traced to former Nigerian dictator. Gen. Sani Abacha.”

Young said the US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were in regular communication with the Nigerian government on how to further cooperate and conclude pending asset forfeiture cases and to develop a mechanism for the timely and transparent repatriation of those assets.

According to Young, the US had been communicating with the Nigerian through the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He urged SERAP to liaise with the AGF on the issue.

The embassy letter read in part, “The United States Government supports the Government of Nigeria’s efforts to work with the civil society to identify how harm can be remedied through the return of stolen assets. We encourage you to disclose these issues with the Nigerian Attorney General and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who are working closely with the US on the repatriation process.

“We were encouraged by civil society’s role in the development of Nigeria’s Open Government Partnership Action Plan and the commitment to strengthening laws to foster transparency and accountability in the management of recovered and returned assets.”

The US embassy’s letter was in response to a letter by SERAP dated 3 February, 2017 and signed by the organisation’s US Volunteer Counsel, Prof. Alexander W. Sierck, and Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni.

SERAP had in its letter said, “the $500m proceeds are separate from the $480m of Abacha-origin funds that have been forfeited to the US under an August 2014 US federal district court order.

It urged the Trump administration “to initiate discussions with the Nigerian government to fulfill these objectives within an agreed framework and timeline.

“Simultaneously, the administration should instruct the Justice Department to initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings in regard to the above-referenced $500m in assets described above.”

SERAP said its request was consistent with the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, which both the US and Nigeria had ratified.‎

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