A group has threatened legal action against the Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, if he fails to make public within seven days, details of the various agreements between the Nigeria government, its Swiss counterpart and the World Bank, on the use of recovered money stolen by ex-dictator, Sani Abacha.
The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice accuses the Minister of refusing to release the information based on a Freedom of Information request.
The Justice Minister, Mr. Adoke, had in his response through the deputy director and head of the FOI Unit, Stella Anukum, redirected the group to the Federal Ministry of Finance, which it noted was the appropriate place to go to, as it had greater interest in the information.
The Executive Director of the Network, David Ugolor, said the group was interested in the information, particularly the deal between the Federal Government, the World Bank and the Abacha family, concerning the effective management of funds in view of the belief that the Justice Ministry had a lot of input in the deal.
He said the Ministry was involved in negotiations that led to the decision of the United States government to repatriate about $505million (N100.5billion) to Nigeria in 2005.
Apart from another $277million (N55.12billion) repatriated by the Government of the Principality of Liechtenstein in June, 2014, Mr. Ugolor said the ministry was also involved in the agreement that led to the Swiss government’s recent announcement of plans to repatriate about $380million (N75.6billion) to the country.
The Network said that on the strength of Mutual Legal Assistance as provided by the United Nations Convention on Corruption, there was no way agreements for the repatriation of stolen wealth would be entered with the Federal Government without the involvement of the Justice Ministry in preparing such bilateral legal agreements.
Mr. Ugolor, who condemned the secrecy behind the deals, particularly the recent agreement with the Swiss government and the World Bank on the looted funds by the late Sani Abacha, said the issue was not a question of who has greater interest in the information, but who brokered the deals.
Surprised at the minister’s response, the group said instead of making available to Nigerians the information requested as provided for by the FOI Act 2011, the Minister was passing the buck to the Finance Ministry.
The Network threatened to take steps within its powers to compel the minister to make the information available to Nigerians within seven days timeframe allowed by law.
“We demand the release of the information within the time-frame or face legal action’ of the request.” Mr. Ugolor said.