The French government on Friday said it would return $150 million looted by a former Nigerian head of state, Sani Abacha, to the West African country.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja on Friday, France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, during her one-day visit to Nigeria, said in response to the request submitted by the Nigerian Ministry of Justice, and in agreement with the US Administration, France has agreed to return the stolen money in the form of grants for developmental projects.
“I also informed President Tinubu… France will return to Nigeria the assets stolen from the Nigerian people by General Sani Abacha and his family, which have been frozen in France since 2021,” she said.
Ms Colonna noted that discussions between both governments will commence in order to allocate the money to development projects benefiting the population, according to the priorities of the Nigerian government.
When asked why France appeared to be dictating how the looted funds will be used, she noted that France has no say in how the money is spent;; however, it is part of an agreement reached between Nigeria and the family of the former head of state.
Mr Abacha was a notorious kleptocrat who was named by Transparency International alongside Indonesia’s Suharto and Mobutu Seko of Zaire (now DR Congo) as the world’s worst state official thieves.
Mr Abacha is thought to have stolen between three and five billion dollars, the majority of which came from Nigeria’s oil resources.
In a press statement signed by presidential spokesperson Ajuri Ngelale, Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu thanked the French government.
“Thank you for the good news on the return of Abacha loot. We appreciate your effective cooperation concerning the return of Nigeria’s money. It will be judiciously applied in attaining our development objectives,” Mr Ngelale quoted the president as saying.
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