Monday, 3 July 2017

Nigeria’s $16.5bn trapped

The Presidency yesterday said that over $16.5 billion, being part of stolen funds from Nigeria, is being trapped in some foreign countries.

The government said that about $430 million is trapped in Switzerland, over $400 million trapped in the United States (U.S.), about $15 billion trapped in different countries yet-to-be ascertained, while $700 million is trapped in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Prosecution, Okoi Obono-Obla, in an exclusive chat with New Telegraph in Abuja, noted that the UAE Government will soon name Nigerians who have invested the country’s stolen funds in properties and shares in their country.
While speaking on the trapped funds, Obono-Oblas said: “Well, I cannot give you an exact figure, whatever I give you is an estimate, possibility or probability. The one in Switzerland, I think, is about $430 million. The one in U.S. was confiscated by the government because they filed papers, there was no representation from Nigeria and it was during the days of Goodluck Jonathan and Mohammed Adoke as Attorney General of the Federation (AGF). As a result, the District Court in Washington ordered that the money should be forfeited to the U.S. Government.

“We have been trying to get that judgement. It is a default judgement. We have briefed some lawyers in the U.S. to get the judgement set aside. The money is over $400 million. Again, there are some others I may not be able to recall. The arms deal, investigation is still ongoing, so I cannot say expressly the amount that is taken outside the country. But the money should be about $15 billion.
“We have signed an agreement with the government of Dubai, and have seen evidence of about $200 million in properties that were repatriated to Dubai. The Government of Dubai, because of the agreement, is ready to release names of Nigerians who have properties and shares in Dubai banks.
“If we put all of that together, it should be around $700 million, but that is speculative. But for the one we have established, it is about $200 million of properties that were owned by politically-exposed persons.

“To trace and recover looted assets is a very complex issue and you have seen that for the Abacha loot; for the past 20 years, we have been on it. This government has mounted a very strenuous campaign to get these monies back from all the foreign countries where they are trapped. The countries always act in such a way that we don’t get the money back. For example, the Switzerland government is saying that we have to guarantee that if the money is sent to Nigeria, it will not be looted again and then they also nominated World Bank, that it should guaranteed.

“And we have accepted because this government is responsible and accountable. We have nothing to hide. We have accepted that condition and we can assure that nobody will take a dime out of that money.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Government will, this week, arraign one of the recalled judges, Justice Agbadu James Fishim of the National Industrial Court (NIC) before a Lagos State High Court on a 19-count charge bothering on alleged unlawful enrichment to the tune of N4.8 million.

Justice Fishim is one of the five judicial officers recently recalled from suspension by the National Judicial Council (NJC).

The judge is accused of unlawfully receiving N4.8 million from seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), a non-Silk and a law firm between June 2013 and August 2015 through his account domiciled in a bank.

In the charge against Justice Fishim, he is accused of unlawful enrichment by a public official contrary to Section 82(a) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, No.11, 2011.

He is accused to have illegally received various amounts of money so as to have a significant increase “in your assets that you cannot reasonably explain the increase in relation to your lawful income.”
He is also accused of unlawfully receiving N4.8 million from seven Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), a non SAN and a law firm between June 2013 and August 2015 through his account domiciled in a bank.

Also in the charge, the prosecution claimed that a lawyer gave the judge a total of N1.3 million in four installments.

Another SAN was alleged to have given the judge the sum of N1.1 million in three tranches of N350,000, N400,000 and N400,000.

The prosecution also alleged that a SAN gave the judge N400,000 in two installments of N200,00 each, while another silk was said to have given him N100,000.

It was further alleged that a senior lawyer gave Justice Fishim another N250,000 while the lawyer’s firm also gave the judge the same sum of N250,000.

Another SAN, according to the charge, gave the judge N500,000 in four tranches of N200,000, N100,000, N100,000 and N100,000.

It was also claimed by the prosecution that a lawyer gave the judge N150,000 and N100,000, making a total of N250,000 while another gave him N500,000.

Obono-Obla, however, noted that the said lawyers will not be arraigned now, but they will be used as witnesses against the judge.

On the arraignment of the judge, he said: “This week, Justice Agbadu Fishim will be arraigned in a Lagos court. The charges have been filed that he collected monies from lawyers. If you see the charges, the lawyers are listed there. We have also charged another lawyer who collected money from another lawyer and could not explain the over $200,000.”

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