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US Gives Claimants 90 Days to Challenge Repatriation of $625m Abacha Loot

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  • US Gives Claimants 90 Days to Challenge Repatriation of $625m Abacha Loot

The federal government has initiated talks with the family of the Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, to give up their claim to $145 million traced to the family of the late military Head of State, General Sani Abacha in the United States, just as the U.S. has also given conditions for releasing another $480 million also linked to Abacha but has been forfeited by U.S. courts to the country’s Department of Justice (DOJ).

A top source at the Ministry of Justice said this was the outcome of the meeting between the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, during President Muhammadu Buhari’s four-day official visit to Washington D.C. early this month.

The ministry source confirmed that the U.S. government was willing to release the $145 million to Nigeria but for the suit instituted against the return of the money to the Nigerian government by the Bagudus.

According to the source, if the Bagudu family is willing to allow the U.S. to enter a default judgment regarding the money, it would repatriate the $145 million and $480 million, making a total of $625 million to Nigeria by September.

checks revealed that the Bagudu family had filed a case in a U.S. court challenging the forfeiture of the $145 million and the decision to repatriate it to Nigeria.

The said $145 million, investigations showed, was held in what the U.S. government described as the ‘Blue Trust’.

To make the deal possible, the source said, Malami had assured his U.S. counterpart, Sessions, that he would talk to the lawyers representing the Bagudu family to give up their claim to the money.

However, it is not clear, if the Bagudus will agree to relinquish their claim to the money.

“As a matter of fact, the minister has assured the U.S. authorities that he would persuade the Bagudus to drop their claim. He is very confident that the talk with the Bagudus will succeed,” the source said.

The Kebbi governor was closely involved with the Abachas and was linked to some of the funds stolen from Nigeria during the reign of the late head of state.

On the $480 million already with the DOJ, the source said that there were still third parties laying claim to the funds, but did not divulge their identities.

Some lawyers who claimed they were entitled to some commission from the money had threatened to go to court to stop the repatriation.

The source, however, said that the third parties also have 90 days to appeal the decision of the U.S. government to release the $480 million to Nigeria, failing which it will be repatriated by September.

Between 1994 and 1998, the Abacha family reportedly stole more than $2 billion from Nigeria under the pretext that the money was meant for national security.

The source said the conditions given by the U.S. before the funds could be released to the federal government include the demand that Nigeria must identify specific projects that the Buhari-led administration will spend the money on when released to Nigeria.

He said the U.S. also demanded that a framework for monitoring how the funds would be spent be put in place.

The source further said that U.S. noted that even though there was a third party claim to the funds, both countries should jointly work on a memorandum of understanding detailing specific projects on which the funds would be utilised.

“They also gave any third parties interested in making a claim on the funds to do so within 90 days or by September 2018 when the period to appeal will lapse.

“As I speak to you, the federal government is working to identify specific projects that will benefit from the funds,” the source added.

Investigations by THISDAY further revealed that when the U.S. asked the justice minister to identify the projects that the Nigerian government would spend the funds on, Malami told them that he would have to consult with the president and the economic team for a decision on the project.

The source could not confirm whether Nigeria has submitted a list of the projects to the U.S. as of press time.

The source explained that the U.S. expected Nigeria to submit specific projects for which the funds would be applied before the end of this month to enable the U.S. take a decision on the projects next month.

He said that the U.S. would have to vet the list and approve it before the funds can be repatriated to Nigeria.

Investigations revealed that the U.S. was being guided by past experience when Nigeria could not account for how it managed funds repatriated to it.

The source also disputed claims that the U.S. DOJ has blocked the federal government’s lawyers representing Nigeria in the claims challenging the forfeiture of the funds and their repatriation to Nigeria from earning their commission.

According to him, “Contrary to some sponsored news reports, the federal government’s lawyers said to have been barred by the U.S. DOJ were even at the meeting between Malami and Sessions in Washington D.C.

“I don’t know where these stories emanated from, but I can assure you that the federal government’s lawyers have not been stopped by the U.S. DOJ. Even the U.S. DOJ is using lawyers to represent it in both cases, so how can they bar the legal representatives of the Nigerian government?”

He said during the meeting, discussions also shifted to another $1 million linked to the late governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyesiegha, which the U.S. government also agreed to repatriate.

As a precondition for the release of the $1 million, the U.S. government has asked Nigeria to submit a proposal on how the funds will be utilised in Bayelsa State.

A source stated that about $3 million recovered from the assets traced to a former governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, in the U.S. remained trapped because the former governor is contesting his conviction by a court in the United Kingdom.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade long experience in the global financial market.

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COVID-19: EU Restricts Nigerians From Entering Europe After Infecting them

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European Union Excludes Nigerian from 54 Nations that Can Enter the Region

The European Union (EU) has excluded Nigeria from the list of 54 nations that will be allowed to enter the region when it eventually opens its external borders in July.

In a statement published on schengenvisainfo.com, the union listed the 54 countries as Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Australia, Bahamas, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Dominica, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guyana and India.

Others are Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Mauritius, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Palau, Paraguay, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Serbia, South Korea, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vatican City, Venezuela, Vietnam and Zambia.

While China, the outbreak nation, South Korea and Japan, two of the most affected nations in the world, will be allowed to enter the Euro-area when external borders reopen in July, Nigeria with fewer cases of COVID-19 has been excluded from the list despite an Italian businessman been the index case.

The Italian businessman had traveled to Nigeria in February 2020 and tested positive to COVID-19 on February 27 after interacting with Nigerians that came in contact with him.

The Nigerian government had allowed citizens of Euro-area to travel into the country despite the rising number of new cases in the region, especially in Italy, France and Germany. However, the revise is the case now, even with Nigeria addressing the situation started by the European Union.

Eric Mamer, the spokesman for the commission, said “The European Union has an internal process to determine from which countries it would be safe to accept travellers.”

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FG Test-Runs Nnamdi Azikiwe, Lagos Airport Ahead of Flight Operations

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FG Test-Runs Nnamdi Azikiwe, Lagos Airport Ahead of Flight Operations

The Federal Government on Saturday conducted a test-run of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport and the Murtala Muhammed International Airport ahead of commercial flight operations following months of lockdown due to COVID-19.

In line with safety protocols, passengers will be duly screened to protect them and the cabin crew.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), provisions were made for hand wash and alcohol-based sanitisers, there were temperature checks, as well as strict compliance to social distancing of about one metre.

Also, the Federal Government has acquired robots to process passengers at the departure hall, according to NTA news.

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These robots were reportedly tested in Lagos earlier this morning.

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It would be recalled that Air Peace had flown 25 empty planes from Lagos to Abuja, Port Harcourt and back to Lagos to ascertain their working condition ahead of flight resumption.

The airline spokesperson, Stanley Olisa, stated on Thursday.

He said, “All the aircraft took to the skies flying to Abuja, Port Harcourt and back to Lagos without passengers.”

Speaking on the airline readiness, Olisa said “We have been operating ‘special flights’ to local and international destinations, and we have more of such flights in the works.

“This accentuates our preparedness for operation restart as our pilots, cabin crew and engineers have been hands-on and are current. So, we are 100 per cent ready to resume.”

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Oxford University Commences First Human Trials of COVID-19 Vaccine in South Africa

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Oxford University Commences First Human Trials of COVID-19 Vaccine in South Africa

Oxford University in Partner with the University of Witwatersrand has rolled out the first human trials of COVID-19 vaccine in Africa in South Africa.

The trials that started on Wednesday will consist of 2,000 volunteers between the age of 18 to 65 years, this will include HIV positive patients. Together they will be administered the vaccine and monitored for 12 months to evaluate how well the vaccine protects them against COVID-19.

Shabir Madhi, a professor of vaccinology at Wits University and leader of the trial said, “Once 60% of the population, especially the adult population, becomes immune, we expect that effective reproductive rate to go under 1, which basically means the virus will still be around, it will still circulate, but its chain of transmission has been interrupted.”

South Africa is now the second country after Brazil to take part in the trial outside the United Kingdom where 4,000 people had previously volunteered.

The ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine, also known as AZD1222, was developed by Oxford University scientists, that are now working with AstraZeneca on development and production.

The trial has created a mixed feeling among Africans following decades of using Africans as guinea pigs for new medical trials.

Junior Mhlongo, a volunteer who received the vaccine at a hospital in Johannesburg, said: “I feel a little bit scared, but I want to know what is going on with this vaccine so that I can tell my friends and others.”

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