A Nigerian economic and social rights group has written to the White House demanding the return of $500 million of stolen funds, which it claims are being held by the US, according to a CNN report.
“(We urge) the administration to attach and release to Nigeria some $500 million worth of US-based proceeds of corruption traced to former Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha,” the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) wrote in an open letter.
The letter cites US obligations as a signatory to the UN Convention Against Corruption, and demands that the government “promptly initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings” to ensure that the funds are swiftly returned to Nigeria.
SERAP’s claim is the latest in a series of attempts to recover lost wealth from Abacha and his family, which has been frozen in accounts and assets around the world.
Switzerland has recovered and returned around $700 million to Nigeria to date, with further sums pending. The US Department of Justice had already seized $480 million in 2014, prior to SERAP’s new claim, although this has yet to be returned
The Nigerian government’s focus is on reclaiming the funds it is due from these latter cases rather than the SERAP claim, says Professor
Bolaji Owasanoye, Executive Secretary of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption.
Extracting the money from the US in particular has been a frustrating process for Nigeria.
“President Obama met with our President Buhari and made a commitment to return this sum to the government of Nigeria,” says Owasanoye. “This has been subject to legal challenge, and the bureaucratic system in the US is hindering the return so far.”
“Developed countries are very happy to recover money but very slow to return it,” he adds.
The legal challenge comes from Godson Nnaka, a former attorney for the Nigerian government.
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) says that the appeal must be resolved before the funds can be returned to Nigeria.