The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has asked the federal government to reconsider its plan to share the $320bn Abacha loot among poor households in Nigeria.
In May, President Muhammadu Buhari said the recovered loot will be put into the conditional cash transfers (CCT) scheme targeted at the “poorest of Nigerians”.
Tukur Rumar, representative of the National Cash Transfer Office (NCTO), on Thursday, said the federal government would begin the disbursement of the loot to over 300,000 poor households in 19 states in July.
He listed Niger, Kogi, Ekiti, Osun, Oyo, Kwara, Cross River, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarrawa, Anambra and internally displaced camps (IDPs) in Borno as the beneficiaries.
Timothy Adewale, SERAP director, in a statement on Sunday, described the plan as “mere tokenism”, adding that “it would neither have significant impact on poverty alleviation nor satisfy the twin objectives of justice and development”.
The organisation asked the president to rather create a central recovery account/trust funds, “with oversight mechanisms to ensure repatriated funds are transparently and accountably spent to invest in tangible projects”.
The statement read: “The authorities have a legal obligation under the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party to make sure that the returned Abacha loot is properly and efficiently used, both from the viewpoint of using asset recovery as a tool of ensuring justice to victims of corruption and breaking the cycle of grand corruption.
“But the plan to share the loot among households is mere tokenism and would neither have significant impact on poverty alleviation nor satisfy the twin objectives of justice and development.
“Rather than spending the loot to fund the National Social Safety Net Program (NAASP), President Buhari should, within the framework of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), create a central recovery account/trust funds, with oversight mechanisms to ensure repatriated funds are transparently and accountably spent to invest in tangible projects that would improve access of those living in poverty to essential public services such as water, education and health.
“Distributing N5,000 to household would neither improve the socio-economic conditions of beneficiaries nor achieve the enduring value of a more transparent and robust system to manage recovered loot.
“The return of the Abacha loot is a chance for President Buhari to commit to the enforcement of the 2016 judgment by Justice Mohammed Idris, which ordered his government to publish the spending of recovered loot since 1999 by past and present governments till date, as well as details of projects on which the funds were spent; and to vigorously push the National Assembly to pass the Proceeds of Crime Bill.”
SERAP said it would be unfair to leave 17 states out of the loot because they do not have the appropriate platform to implement the National Social Safety Net Program (NAASP).
“In any case, distributing the returned loot to households in 19 states because the remaining 17 state governments have not yet put in place the appropriate platform through which to implement the NAASP is both unfair and discriminatory,” the statement continued.
“The planned distribution is also vulnerable to abuse and corruption by state governors, who may push for the funds to be given to their supporters and thus used for parochial and political purposes.
“President Buhari should re-negotiate the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Swiss authorities in full consultation with the communities affected by grand corruption and to ensure that the returned loot is used to promote justice and development.
“Buhari should make these happen before the next general election if he is to truly demonstrate his oft-repeated commitment to fight grand corruption.”