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SERAP sues Buhari, Malami over Abacha loot

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has filed a lawsuit against President Muhammadu Buhari over “the failure to publish copy and details of the agreement the Federal Government recently signed with the United States for the repatriation of $23 million stolen by the late dictator Sani Abacha”.

A statement released on Sunday by the Deputy Director of SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare revealed the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) was also included in the suit as respondent. 

‘’The United States government had in August signed an agreement with the Federal Government to repatriate $23 million Abacha loot to Nigeria. The $23 m adds to the $311.7 m Abacha loot repatriated from the U.S. to Nigeria in 2020’’, the statement read.

In the suit which was filed on Friday, September 23, 2022 at the Federal High Court, Abuja, SERAP is asking the court to “direct and compel President Buhari and Mr. Abubakar Malami to release and widely publish copy of the agreement on the Abacha loot with the U.S.”

The Organization is also asking the court to “direct and compel President Buhari and Mr Abubakar Malami to publish details of the transparency and accountability mechanisms that have been put in place to ensure that the repatriated funds are not mismanaged, diverted or re-stolen.”

“The Nigerian Constitution 1999 [as amended], the Freedom of Information Act, and the country’s international obligations impose transparency obligations on the Federal Government to widely publish the agreement on the $23 m Abacha loot”, SERAP argued.

It also argued that, “Publishing a copy of the agreement with the U.S. would allow Nigerians to scrutinize it, and to monitor the spending of the repatriated loot to ensure that the money is not mismanaged, diverted or re-stolen.”

According to SERAP, “the repatriated $23 m Abacha loot is vulnerable to corruption and mismanagement; alleging that a substantial part of the estimated $5 bn returned Abacha loot since 1999 may have been mismanaged, diverted, or re-stolen, and in any case remain unaccounted for”.

The Organization further explained that the Federal Government has a responsibility to ensure transparency and accountability in how any repatriated stolen funds are spent, to reduce vulnerability to corruption and mismanagement.”

SERAP therefore urged the court to grant its application for the sake of public interest, and the interest of justice, stressing that Nigerians are entitled to their constitutionally and internationally recognized human right to information”.

Writing by Annabel Nwachukwu