The US authorities have opposed plans by Nigeria’s government to hand about $100 million looted by former military dictator, Sani Abacha, to Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Bagudu, Bloomberg reports.
Transparency International says Abacha may have looted as much as $5 billion during his five-year reign between 1993-98.
US Department of Justice (DoJ) alleges that Bagudu was involved in corruption with Abacha.
Recent filings from the District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington show that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration wants to honour a 17-year-old agreement which it says entitles Bagudu to the funds.
Bloomberg says Bagudu and a spokesman for the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, did not respond to requests for comment.
It, however, said in its report on Friday that a spokesman for Buhari said the issues were matters for Malami while a spokesman for DoJ declined to comment.
US court filings show that successive Nigerian governments have repatriated more than $2 billion of the looted funds with the cooperation of other countries.
The report said: “In the case involving Bagudu, the U.S. in 2013 initiated a forfeiture action against a host of assets, including four investment portfolios held in London in trust for him and his family, according to the district court filings.
“The DoJ said in a Feb. 3 statement that Bagudu, 58, was part of a network controlled by Abacha that ‘embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria.
“Despite the forfeiture action being initiated following a Nigerian state request in 2012, Buhari’s government now says it can’t assist the U.S. because it’s bound by a settlement Bagudu reached with the administration of then-President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003, according to the court filings.
“Under the terms of that accord, which was approved by a UK court, Bagudu returned $163 million of allegedly laundered money to the Nigerian authorities, which in exchange dropped all outstanding civil and criminal claims against him.”
After Bagudu successfully sued Nigeria for violating the 2003 settlement, the report says that court filings show Buhari’s administration reached a new agreement with him in October 2018 that would result in the transfer of ownership of the investment portfolios, worth 141 million euros ($155 million) to Nigeria, which would then pay 98.5 million euros to Bagudu and his affiliates.
The funds are currently restrained by the UK at the request of the US.
The report also said that a court in the UK is yet to make a decision following the submission of the 2018 deal in September to support its application to unfreeze the assets so they can be sent to Nigeria.