Court Orders Former Presidents’ Governments to Account for $5 Billion Abacha Loot

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A Federal High Court in Abuja has directed the administrations of former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo, late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, and Muhammadu Buhari to provide a detailed account of the projects executed or being executed with the $5 billion returned Abacha loot.

The court also ordered President Bola Tinubu’s government to disclose the exact amount of money stolen by the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, the total amount of recovered Abacha loot, and all agreements signed by the governments of the former presidents regarding the loot.

The Minister of Finance, the Attorney General of the Federation, and the Minister of Justice were also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

In September 2022, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) filed a lawsuit against the administration of former President Buhari for not publishing a copy and details of the agreement between the Federal Government and the United States regarding the repatriation of $23 million stolen by Sani Abacha.

The agreement, signed in August 2022, followed the return of the $311 million Abacha loot by the United States in 2020.

SERAP requested that the court direct the President and the former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to make the details of the contractual agreement with the US public.

According to SERAP, “the repatriated $23 million Abacha loot is vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement. A significant portion of the estimated $5 billion Abacha loot returned since 1999 may have been mismanaged, diverted, or stolen and remains unaccounted for.”

In his ruling on a Freedom of Information suit brought by SERAP, Justice James Omotosho stated, “In the final analysis, the application by SERAP is meritorious, and the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Finance, is hereby ordered to furnish SERAP with the full spending details of about $5 billion Abacha loot within seven days of this judgment.”

The court also ordered the government to disclose the details of projects executed with the Abacha loot, including their locations and the names of companies and contractors involved since the return of democracy in 1999.

Justice Omotosho further ordered the government to “disclose the specific roles played by the World Bank and other partners in the execution of any projects funded with Abacha loot under the governments of former Presidents Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan, and Buhari.”

He dismissed all objections raised by the Federal Government and ruled in favor of SERAP.

Consequently, the court entered judgment in favor of SERAP against the Federal Government.

In response to the court order, SERAP urged President Bola Tinubu to enforce the judgment and demonstrate his commitment to the rule of law by complying with the court’s decision. SERAP called for the immediate compilation and release of the spending details of the recovered Abacha loot as ordered by the court.

SERAP emphasized that the enforcement and implementation of the judgment would be a victory for the rule of law, transparency, and accountability in governance.

The organization expressed its trust in President Tinubu’s positive response and action regarding the judgment.

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