The United States has revealed that the Federal Government is allegedly planning to hand over $100 million recovered from the late General Sani Abacha, a former head of state, to Atiku Bagudu, Governor of Kebbi State.
According to the US Department of Justice, the Federal Government is blocking attempts to recover part of the looted funds allegedly traced to Bagudu, Bloomberg, a US financial publication, reported on Friday.
The publication said the Department of Justice made the claim in court papers filed before the District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington.
The payment, according to Bloomberg, is said to be part of a 17-year-old agreement that allows Bagudu ownership of some of the funds recovered from Abacha.
According to court filings, the agreement was signed in 2003 during the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
The agreement meant “Nigeria renounced any interest whatsoever” in Bagudu’s trust assets, including those the US is attempting to recover for the West African nation, the report stated.
Governor Bagudu, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum, was indicted by the US Government for helping the late Abacha to transfer billions of dollars.
The governor has been linked to some of the monies reportedly stolen by Abacha, including the $300 million recently million recovered from the late dictator and the over $177 million the US Department of Justice (DOJ) named him as a beneficiary.
He spent six months in US federal detention in Texas while awaiting extradition to the Island of Jersey, according to the Department of Justice.
But shortly before he was to be extradited to New Jersey for a criminal trial, Governor Bagudu was said to have signed an agreement indicating a return $163 million to Nigeria and was released on bond on arrival in the West African nation, where he was meant to be prosecuted for money laundering.
The agreement was said to have been approved by a UK-court and cleared the Kebbi State Governor of “all outstanding civil and criminal claims against him”.
However, the United States through its Department of Justice has questioned the rationale behind the return of the money to Bagudu after he was indicted as a key beneficiary of the Abacha loot, the report stated.
“After Bagudu successfully sued Nigeria for violating the 2003 settlement, Buhari’s administration reached a new agreement with him in October 2018, according to the court filings.
“That would result in the transfer of ownership of the investment portfolios, worth 141 million euros ($155 million) to the Nigerian state, which would then pay 98.5 million euros to Bagudu and his affiliates, according to (District Judge John D.) Bates’ Dec. 23 opinion.”
The report further stated that the disagreement between the two countries “may hamper future cooperation” in efforts to recover funds stolen by Abacha.
“A commitment by Nigeria to transfer the funds to Kebbi state Governor Abubakar Bagudu appears to undermine Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s pledge to quell rampant graft in Africa’s top oil producer,” the report stated.
Bloomberg said neither Bagudu nor a spokesman for Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), responded to its requests for comment.
The American publication noted that a spokesman for President Muhammadu Buhari said the settlement and the litigation were matters for Malami, adding that a spokesman for the Department of Justice also declined to comment.