ABUJA, April 30 (Reuters) - Nigeria must use money repatriated from funds looted by former military ruler General Sani Abacha on agreed public projects or be forced to “replace” it, the U.S. Justice Department said.
The United States and the British dependency of Jersey agreed with the Nigerian government in Febuary to return $300 million that Abacha, who died in 1998, had stashed in their banks. Nigeria has pledged to use it to develop road infrastructure.
The U.S. Justice Department outlined the so-called “claw back” provison in a response to a query from a powerful U.S. senator questioning the prudence of returning the cash.
“Should any of the parties — including the United States —conclude that any of the returned funds had been used for an ineligible expenditure, a “claw-back” provision would then obligate the FRN (Nigeria) to replace fully any such improperly diverted monies,” the letter said.
It did not specify how and to whom, the money would be “replaced”.
The provision is notable as Nigeria continues efforts to repatriate money allegedly stolen during Abacha’s tenure leading Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, from 1993 until his death in 1998.
Corruption watchdog Transparency International estimates he stole as much as $5 billion of public money during that time. Abacha was never charged with corruption during his lifetime, and died in office.
A spokesman for Nigerian Attorney General Abubakar Malami said the government under President Muhammadu Buhari had a history of “prudent and transparent utilisation of recovered assets,” and that the money would be used as outlined in the agreement.
“The Federal Government does not in any way contemplate of doing otherwise,” spokesman Umar Jibrilu Gwandu said.
Reporting by Libby George in Lagos and Camillus Eboh in Abuja, Editing by Angus MacSwan