- US Says No as Nigeria Plans to Hand Over Abacha Loot to Gov
The United States of America has opposed plans by the Federal Government to hand over $100 million recovered as part of the money stolen by former military president Sani Abacha to Governor Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State.
The American authorities had accused Gov Bagudu of corruption during the Abacha regime. The U.S. Department of Justice says Bagudu was involved in corruption with Abacha and all efforts to unravel and recover allegedly laundered money by the governor has been frustrated by the Nigerian government.
This, the American authorities said may hinder further collaboration on stolen fund repatriation between the two nations.
“This case illustrates how complex and contentious repatriating stolen assets to Nigeria can be,” said Matthew Page, an associate fellow at London-based Chatham House and former Nigeria expert for U.S. intelligence agencies.
“Instead of welcoming U.S. efforts, Nigeria’s lawyers appear to be supporting the interests of one of the country’s most powerful families.”
In a February 3 statement, the DoJ said Bagudu, 58, was part of a powerful network controlled by Abacha that “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria.”
In 2013, the United States had initiated a forfeiture action against a host of assets owned by Bagudu. However, efforts by the DoJ to go after the assets, including four investment portfolios held in London in trust for him and his family, were frustrated by the Nigerian government.
According to BoJ, the Buhari led administration said it can not assist the U.S because of a settlement agreement Nigeria reached with Bagudu under President Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 2003. Meaning, although Bagudu was fingered in corruption, an agreement created by the Nigerian government protects him from persecution.
Under the terms of the agreement reached with the governor, he returned $163 million of allegedly stolen funds to the Nigerian authorities. In exchange, the government dropped all outstanding civil and criminal claims against him “stemming from his involvement in government corruption,” according to a Dec. 23 memorandum opinion by District Judge John D. Bates in Washington D.C.
This means “Nigeria renounced any interest whatsoever” in Bagudu’s trust assets, including those the U.S. is attempting to recover for the West African nation, the opinion stated.
President Buhari administration has reached a new agreement with Bagudu after the governor successfully sued Nigeria for violating terms of the agreement signed in 2003, the government has since reached a new agreement with him in October 2018, according to court documents.
The new agreement includes the transfer of ownership of investment portfolios, valued at 141 million euros ($155 million) to the federal government, which would then pay Bagudu and his affiliates 98.5 million euros.
The US, however, restrained the U.K. from releasing the said fund to the Nigerian government to be passing on to Bagudu and his affiliates.
Prepaid Meter is Free, Buhari Warns DisCos, Agents
President Muhammadu Buhari once again warned Power Distributing Companies (DisCos) and their agents selling prepaid meters to electricity customers against the Federal Government directive that meter is free.
Ahmed Rufai Zakar, the Special Adviser to the President on Infrastructure, who represented Buhari at the FGN/NLC-TUC ad-hoc committee on electricity tariff stakeholders held in Ibadan, Oyo State on Wednesday, said President Buhari understood people’s concerns on issues surrounding electricity and was determined to curb and deal with unscrupulous individuals in the power sector.
He said, “We have made it very clear through the regulators direct order as well as intervention from the Ministry of Power that the meters are to be provided to Nigerians at no cost.
“Even for meters that were paid for, there is the directive from the regulator to the discos that they would need to find a way to reimburse those citizens over time.
“In cases where we find any disco or disco representative selling the meters or exploiting Nigerians to be able to get meters by paying, we would take the full measures of the law.
“The President has mandated that these meters must be free. We have also said that they must come from local manufacturers.
“This would create jobs and revive our industry.”
Nigeria’s Real Estate Sector Shrinks by 8.06% in the Third Quarter -NBS
Economic uncertainty plunged Nigeria’s real estate sector by 8.06 percent in the third quarter of the year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Nigeria’s statistics office said “In nominal terms, real estate services recorded a growth rate of –8.06 per cent in the third quarter of 2020, indicating a decline of –11.78 per cent points compared to the growth rate at the same period in 2019, and by 9.12 per cent points when compared to the preceding quarter.
“Quarter-on-quarter, the sector growth rate was 18.92 per cent.
“Real GDP growth recorded in the sector in Q3 2020 stood at -13.40 per cent, lower than the growth recorded in third quarter of 2019 by –11.09 per cent points, but higher relative to Q2 2020 by 8.59 per cent points.
“Quarter-on-quarter, the sector grew by 17.15 per cent in the third quarter of 2020.
“It contributed 5.58 per cent to real GDP in Q3, 2020, lower than the 6.21 per cent it recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2019.”
Nigeria’s economy contracted by 2.48 percent in the first nine months following a 6.10 percent and 3.62 percent contraction in the second and third quarters respectively.
Nigeria Requires N400 Billion Annually to Maintain Federal Roads -Senator Bassey
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on road maintenance, Senator Gersome Bassey, on Friday said Nigeria requires about N400 billion annually to maintain federal roads across the country.
The Senator, therefore, described the N38 billion budgeted for road repairs in the 2021 proposed Budget as grossly inadequate. According to him, nothing meaningful could be achieved by the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) with such an amount.
He said, “For the 35 kilometres federal roads in the country to be motorable at all times, the sum of N400bn is required on yearly basis for maintenance.”
Bassey “What the committee submitted to the Appropriation Committee in the 2021 fiscal year is the N38bn proposed for it by the executive which cannot cover up to one quarter of the entire length of deplorable roads in the country.
“Unfortunately, despite having the power of appropriation, we cannot as a committee jerk up the sum since we are not in a position to carry out the estimation of work to be done on each of the specific portion of the road.
“Doing that without proposals to that effect from the executive, may lead to project insertion or padding as often alleged in the media.”
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