Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) on Thursday in Lagos said they would closely monitor the spending of the recently repatriated $322.5 million Abacha loot by the federal government.
The CSOs said there was the need to scrutinise spending of the money which was returned by the Switzerland Government to ensure transparency and accountability.
They made this known at a Citizens Dialogue on “Trending Corruption Issues in Nigeria’’ organised by Strengthening Citizens Resistance Against Prevalence of Corruption (SCRAP-C), a United Kingdom Anti-Corruption Programme.
The CSOs which participated in the dialogue included Action Aid Nigeria, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Centre for Communication and Social Impact.
Others were Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre (WARDC) and Media Rights Agenda (MRA).
The Executive Director, ANEEJ, David Ugolor, said in 2004, the first tranche of the money illegally taken outside Nigeria by former Military Head of State, Sani Abacha, was returned.
Mr Ugolor noted that the President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government which received the $480 million had claimed that it was used for various projects across Nigeria.
“When CSOs carried out investigations, we could not locate some of the projects and we prepared a shadow report on it.
“So, now that the Nigerian government has received another tranche, we have decided to monitor its utilisation.
“The government says it will be used as a social safety net for poor Nigerians through conditional cash transfers.
“Our role is to ensure that the money does not go into the hands of politicians and middlemen.
“We are also to sensitise the beneficiaries on how to judiciously use the money to improve their lives.’’
According to him, the CSOs will be working with the Cash Transfer Office to ensure that the process is transparent and beneficial to Nigeria.
Mr Ugolor also decried the delay in the passing of the Proceed of Crime Bill which is presently pending before the National Assembly.
He stressed that it would go a long way in tackling grand corruption in the country.
Earlier, the Project Manager, SCRAP-C, Newton Otsemaye, said the anti-corruption campaign was being hindered due to the huge disconnect between the government and the people.
“As citizens, we owe ourselves the responsibility of demanding for a better society where accountability and transparency in public and private sectors are norms.
“We are, however, only able to do this effectively if we have the right information to guide our engagements with the government and the private sector that engages in business with it.
“Therefore, this dialogue platform will give us the opportunity to interrogate the trend of corruption allegations in our government.
“It will also enable us recommend possible steps relevant to further strengthen the present anti-corruption agenda.’’
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