Writes Buhari for publication of agreement with U.S.
Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has said the $23 million Abacha loot is vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement.
The American government had, last week, signed an agreement with the Federal Government to repatriate the sum to Nigeria. But SERAP, in a letter, at the weekend, by its deputy director, Kolawole Oluwadare, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to direct the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to make public a copy of the pact.
It said by the “combined reading of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the Freedom of Information Act and the country’s international obligations, there are transparency obligations imposed on your government to widely publish the agreement on the $23 million Abacha loot.”
In the correspondence copied to Malami, the group observed: “Providing us with a copy of the agreement with the U.S. and publishing the agreement would allow Nigerians to scrutinise it and monitor the spending of the repatriated $23 million Abacha loot to ensure that the money is not mismanaged, diverted or stolen.”
It claimed that a substantial part of the estimated $5 billion returned Abacha loot since 1999 may have been diverted, re-stolen or mismanaged, as it had reportedly remained unaccounted for.
“The Nigerian Constitution, Freedom of Information Act and the country’s anti-corruption and human rights obligations rest on the principle that citizens should have access to information regarding their government’s activities.
“Your government has a responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability in how any repatriated stolen funds are spent, to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement,” the organisation added.
SERAP also charged the nation’s chief law officer to provide details of the transparency and accountability mechanisms that have been put in place to ensure that the repatriated funds are not mismanaged, diverted or re-stolen.
It continued: “Publishing a copy of the agreement signed with the U.S. would also promote transparency and accountability in the spending of public funds. Nigerians are entitled to their constitutionally and internationally recognised human right to information.
“Publishing a copy of the agreement would ensure that persons with public responsibilities are answerable to the people for the performance of their duties, including the management of repatriated loot.
“The Freedom of Information Act, Section 39 of the Nigerian Constitution, Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantee to everyone the right to information, including to a copy of the agreement on the repatriated $23 million Abacha loot.
“According to our information, the U.S. government recently signed an agreement with the Federal Government to repatriate $23 million Abacha loot to Nigeria.
“The agreement was signed on behalf of your government by Malami. This repatriation brings the total amount of funds repatriated in the Abacha case by the U.S. to more than $334.7 million.”