Committee Handicapped In Recovering From Abacha,Ibori, Diezani, Others
Proposes Assets Recovery Fund
Paucity of funds may be seriously working against the efforts of the Presidential Advissory Committee on Corruption, PACC, inaugurated by the present administration in recovering billions of Naira stashed away in domestic and foreign accounts by past officials who may have stolen such funds from the public treasury..
Me,mbers of the committee was reported to have confirmed that lack of funds is hampering and frustrating government’s efforts in recovering what was stolen by , amongst others the late former Head of state, General Sani Abacha, ex-governor of Delta State, James Ibori, currently serving a jail term in Britain and the immediate past Minister of Petroleum resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The Committee which was created by President Muhammadu Buhari on assumption of office to take a holistic view of the nation’s corruption index, and advise on how best to curtail the menace announced that it has been weighed down by lack of funds, to initiate moves to recover large sums of the Nigerian money stolen by past officials.
PACC, in a letter to a United Kingdom-based anti-corruption organisation, Global Witness, soliciting assistance in raising funds, revealed that due to the fall in crude oil prices, and the general economic downturn, the government lacked the needed funds to pursue recovery of loots.
The letter, dated February 15, 2016, and signed by the Executive Secretary of PACC, Bolaji Owasanoye, which was directed to the Director of Global Witness, Simon Taylor, appealed that it was indigent and unable to sustain a formidable front against the nation’s looters.
Mr. Owasanoye, a professor, argued that the economy could not be revived simply by improving revenue generation, without wiping out corruption and recovering money stolen by former officials.
He said ongoing investigations into the diversion of arms funds by the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, and ex-military chiefs, show that significant amount of the money needed by the government to alleviate poverty were still in “the pockets and bank accounts of looters of public funds”.
He said intelligence reports and court rulings elsewhere have shown that there were more funds to be recovered from the immediate past Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, the fraudulent sale of OPL 245 by Malabu Oil and Gas, a company owned by “a well-known money launderer”, Dan Etete, assets traced to former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, and former military ruler, Sani Abacha.
He however explained that due to the multi-jurisdiction of the cases, and the exorbitant charges of professionals such as lawyers, forensic financial investigators, and the ability of the suspected officials to use part of the alleged stolen fund to challenge the recovery of the fund, the government needed huge flow of resources.
“However, this poses a major problem. An empty treasury means that the money is not currently available for the government to engage these professionals due to the high fee that they charge.
“Even in cases where service will be given on contingency basis the initial seed fund required to start the process is not affordable. As a result, the action the government urgently seeks to take is being stymied,” Mr. Owasanoye wrote.
He argued that the government’s capacity to pursue all potential cases would be greatly boosted by the creation of an Assets Tracing, Recovery and Litigation Fund from which lawyers, investigators and forensic auditors will be paid.
He added that the government was also working on an arrangement where professionals engaged would be paid only on successes recorded.
“Once engaged, government can negotiate with the professionals to earn only success fees. Each professional engaged will secure its own litigation funders to support their briefs,” he stated.
Mr. Owasanoye further revealed that government would not have got as much traction as it does in its drive to prosecute ex-officials, and in the recovery of funds, if it had not received a combined financial lifeline of $5 million from international organisations such; as the Ford foundation, MacArthur Foundation, and the Foundation to Promote Open Society.
“This fund is supporting the mandate of the Presidency Advisory Committee on Corruption which is co-ordinating the anti-corruption effort of the government and promoting improved criminal justice administration.
“In light of the very dire economic situation of the moment this support and the proposed Assets Tracing, Recovery and Litigation Fund, is crucial to government ability to get recovery assets to support social welfare projects for the impoverished majority of Nigerians.
“Furthermore, funding support will enable government to use money that would have otherwise gone to professionals for assets recovery for other social protection projects,” he wrote