The repatriation of the $321m looted by late Gen. Sani Abacha may not be done anytime soon as the Swiss government says the World Bank has to finalise the projects to be executed with the money by the Federal Government.
The Swiss government explained that a bilateral agreement for the restitution of the money would then be signed afterwards, which would form the basis for the transfer of the money.
The Deputy Head of Mission, Swiss embassy in Nigeria, Daniel Cavegn, said this in an email to inquiries from our correspondent about the time frame for the repatriation of the money.
Cavegn stated that the Swiss government was ready to start the transfer of the fund once all the necessary World Bank protocol and agreements had been taken care of.
He said, “Once the monitoring of the World Bank for the projects chosen by the Federal Government is finalised, we will proceed to a bilateral agreement for the restitution, which is the legal basis for the transfer of the money.
“The Swiss forfeiture order provides for a return of $321m to Nigeria and foresees a monitoring of the use of the funds by the World Bank.
“From the Swiss side, we are committed to begin the restitution of the money to Nigeria as soon as possible; we will proceed to a bilateral agreement for the restitution, which is the legal basis for the transfer of the money.
“It is difficult to currently give a time frame for the start of the restitution as the finalisation of the proceedings will still need time.”
On what is further expected of Nigeria, Cavegn said the FG had played its part, adding that the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice of Nigeria and the Swiss Foreign Minister signed on March 8, 2016 in Abuja, a letter of intent regarding the restitution of the fund.
This, he added, was to ensure that the process for the restitution was undertaken on the basis of international best practices of transparency and accountability.
“This letter of intent confirms that the use of the funds will be monitored by the World Bank as foreseen in the forfeiture order issued by the Public Prosecutor of the Canton of Geneva,” the Swiss official stated.
Cavegn noted that the FG had submitted a series of possible projects for which the money repatriated could be used, adding that his country was waiting for details of the proposed projects.
“We are awaiting more details regarding the proposed projects and, in particular, how the monitoring of the World Bank would be assured,” he said.
The envoy further said the mode of payment had not been worked out, noting that it had not been decided whether the money would be paid in instalments. He added that these issues had not been discussed by Switzerland and Nigeria.
The Swiss government said it had repatriated to Nigeria $700 million Abacha loot in several tranches since 2005, noting that the $321m being awaited by the Federal Governmet was not deposited in Switzerland, but frozen and finally repatriated from Luxembourg to Switzerland in the frame of a criminal case against Abba Abacha opened by the Public Prosecutor of the Republic and Canton of Geneva.