Switzerland has agreed to return more of Nigeria’s public funds that were looted and deposited in its banks by former military dictator, General Sani Abacha.
According to the AFP news agency reports, the Swiss authorities have agreed a deal with Nigeria to hand back $321m (£226m), after having handed over an initial $720m earlier.
This was revealed during a ceremony in Abuja where the respective countries signed a letter of intent aimed at the quick and equitable restitution of the funds siphoned off by the late Abacha.
Mr. Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, signed on behalf of Nigeria while the Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr Didier Burkhalter, signed for his home country.
A statement from the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo and quoted by AFP said; “the recovered assets would be put to uses for which they have been intended.”
Local media quoted the Swiss minister as saying that the move was a milestone in the effort to complete the return of the late Abacha’s illegally acquired funds stashed in his country.
“We are confident that we can work together in order to make a new point and step in fighting corruption. The fight against corruption is a priority of our government and it is important to work together in order to restitute the money that has been stolen to the population.’’
“There is the necessity of a monitoring mechanism by the World Bank and it is also necessary to have good projects in social way. For instance, there could be the initiative to save one million lives. If we have this mechanism by the World Bank for monitoring and the good project to the good of the population, then the money will be restituted,’‘ he added.
On the significance of the event, Nigeria’s Justice Minister said the restitution of funds was to send a clear message to the people that the Buhari administration was working hard to recover all looted funds.
“The message is clear that this government is up and doing as far as the repatriation of looted funds wherever they are located, wherever they are situated in the globe is concerned.
The government has the desired commitment, has the desired political will, has the desired cooperation and has put in place the desired road map for the recovery of the looted fund.’‘
General Abacha ruled the West African nation between 1993 to 1998 and is thought to have looted as much as $2bn of public funds – some of which were deposited in Swiss bank accounts.
The Abacha money frozen by the Swiss is due to be returned to the Nigerian authorities following the abandonment of criminal proceedings in 2015 against Abba Abacha, the son of the former dictator. This follows a July 2014 deal by Nigeria and the Abacha family.