Abacha Loot: SERAP Call For Okonjo-Iweala Probe Politically Motivated, Says Ex-Minister’s Spokesperson
The call by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, that former Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, be investigated for her involvement in the management of the recovered Sani Abacha loot, is a politically motivated plot to serve an agenda, her media adviser, Paul Nwabuikwu has said.
The Executive Director of SERAP, Adetokunbo Mumuni, in a statement on Sunday, November 29, 2015 said Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala explained to the World Bank, which played a monitoring role in a return of assets stashed in Switzerland by the late dictator, that around $500m (N65bn) of the received loot was channeled into and spent in the 2004 and 2005 budgets on roads, electricity, education, water and health across all six geo-political zones of Nigeria.
SERAP, however, said there is no proof of such projects executed across the six geo-political zones of the country as millions of Nigerians continue to travel on dead roads, while they continue to lack access to adequate electricity supply, water, health and quality education.
The group, therefore, said given the role of Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala in the spending of Abacha loot, it was calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently probe the role of the Ministry of Finance and relevant federal ministries at the time in the spending of Abacha loot particularly given the strong allegations of mismanagement that trailed the use of the funds.
But Mr. Nwabuikwu in a statement Tuesday, expressed curiosity in the light of more pressing issues, SERAP decided to embark on what he termed “fishing expedition” of a 10 year old process that was handled in an exemplary and transparent manner.
“This shows that neither the organization nor its charges should be taken seriously”, he said.
The former minister’s media aide pointed out that though SERAP claimed its allegations were based on a World Bank statement, the group failed to disclose to that the same bank actively collaborated with the Federal Ministry of Finance on a 2006 field report, which analyzed how the recovered loot was spent.
The statement recalled that as part of the repatriation process, the Swiss government requested and the Nigerian government under President Olusegun Obasanjo, agreed that the World Bank should be involved in monitoring the use of the repatriated Abacha loot.
“The field survey, released in 2006, is titled ‘Utilization of Repatriated Abacha loot: Results of the Field Monitoring Exercise’. It shows that specific funds were indeed transparently programmed and used to boost the budgets of specific target ministries in 2004 and 2005”.
Mr. Nwabuikwu admitted that Civil Society Organisation, CSOs, play critical roles in ensuring transparent management of public funds, globally but that SERAP has made itself a tool in the hands of corrupt interests.
“To say the obvious, civil society groups play a very important role in putting positive pressure on government to remain focused on good governance in order to ensure that clear and measurable results are achieved. No country can manage governance to global standards without civil society groups. And Nigeria is no exception. Nigeria has many credible advocacy groups doing important work in many areas.
“It is therefore sad that SERAP which has made other false allegations against Okonjo-Iweala is hiding under the hallowed umbrella of civil society while acting as a tool for reprehensible, corrupt vested interests”, he said.
Mr. Nwabuikwu further stated that “No amount of sponsored propaganda can conceal the fact that the implementation of the agreement with the Swiss government was done transparently and the report was publicly issued. The entire process was properly managed and reviewed with the help of reputable international organizations.”
NGTrends reports that Abacha, who ruled Nigeria for five years after a palace coup that sacked the Interim National Government of Chief Ernest Shonekan in 1993, is believed to have stolen $4.3bn while in office with about $2.2bn of that amount stashed in European bank accounts.
Following a request by the Obasanjo administration, Switzerland returned to Nigeria more than $700m that the late dictator hid in Swiss accounts with additional $380m (£260m) expected to be repatriated as part of a deal struck last July between the federal government and the Abacha family – the agreement included sending back confiscated funds to Nigeria while the government will drop its case against the deceased dictator’s son Abba Abacha.