The United States Department of Justice has said that the Federal Government led by the President Muhammadu Buhari is making an attempts to recover Abacha loot traced to Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu.
The DoJ disclosed this in court papers filed before the District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington, Bloomberg reports.
It was gathered that Bagudu, who is a close ally of Buhari and a prominent member of the ruling All Progressives Congress, was indicted by the US Government for helping the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, to transfer billions of dollars in the mid-90s.
According to documents released from the DoJ, Bagudu spent six months in federal detention in Texas while awaiting extradition to the Island of Jersey.
However, before he was delivered over to criminal trial in Jersey, he was quick to agreed to return $163m to Nigeria and was released on bond to Nigeria, where he was meant to be prosecuted for money laundering.
However, on arrival to Nigeria, he was approved to contest in three different election cycles – once as a senator and twice as governor – all of which he won and now enjoys immunity.
In a report released by Bloomberg, on Friday, it was reportedthat the US Department of Justice says the Nigerian government is preventing the US from seizing Bagudu’s alleged loot.
“The DoJ also contends that the Nigerian government is hindering US efforts to recover allegedly laundered money it says it’s traced to Bagudu. Buhari’s administration says a 17-year-old agreement entitles Bagudu to the funds and prevents Nigeria from assisting the US, according to recent filings from the District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington,” the report stated.
According to the report, the differences may hamper future cooperation between Nigeria and the US to recover state money moved offshore by Abacha, whom Transparency International estimates may have looted as much as $5bn during his 1993-98 rule.
“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.
Neither Bagudu nor a spokesman for the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), responded to requests for comment.
Successive Nigerian governments have aimed to recover the money looted by Abacha, who died in office, and have so far released more than $2bn with the cooperation of other countries, according to US court filings.
The DoJ said in a February 3 statement that Bagudu, 58, was among a network used by Abacha that “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria.”
Bagudu is the chairman of an influential body of governors representing the ruling All Progressives Congress, Buhari’s party.
“Despite the forfeiture action being initiated following a Nigerian state request in 2012, Buhari’s government now says it can’t assist the US because it’s bound by a settlement Bagudu reached with the administration of then-President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003, according to the court filings,” the report states.