The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (HAGF)Abubakar Malami (SAN), says the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN) and the Government of the United States of America(USA) have signed the return agreement of 1 million US Dollars Repatriation of Assets recovered from the former governor of Bayelsa State, Mr Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha.
The signing and exchange of agreement between the two countries occurred on Thursday February 16th, 2023 in Abuja.
In his opening remarks, the HAGF explained that the asset return arose from the forfeiture and recovery of approximately $1 million USD linked to the corrupt practices of the former governor.
Malami further explained that the United States Government in collaboration with the Federal Republic of Nigeria initiated and completed forfeiture proceedings against certain real property and investment funds located in Maryland and Massachusetts against the former governor which resulted in the net forfeiture to the Government of United States of America totalling the sum of $954,807.40.
Representing the Minister, the Solicitor-General of the Federation/Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Justice Mrs Beatrice Jedy-Agba, OON, mni said that following the court order the FRN and the USA have negotiated and finalized the terms of the asset return agreement.
According to him, ‘’it is worthy to note that in line with the terms of this Agreement, Mr President has already approved the expected sum to be utilized for implementation of a Health Center Project for the benefit of the people of Bayelsa State and to be monitored by the Civil Society Organizations and the federal government, through the Federal Ministry of Justice’’.
Malami noted that he was delighted to welcome the US Ambassador to Nigeria and her team to the much anticipated event in respect of the execution of the Bayelsa Agreement on the repatriation of funds and also glad that they were finally at the stage after much deliberations and hard work between representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and United States Department of Justice (USDOJ).
‘’Permit me to express my gratitude towards the efforts of the government of the United States of America in ensuring that looted funds are returned to Nigeria not only in this case but in other pending cases such as Galactica, Blue Assets, Sabome amongst others ‘He stated.
The HAGF urged the US government to continue to demonstrate the usual cooperation and understanding in other pending cases so that related agreements could be concluded as soon as possible to ensure that the funds were repatriated to Nigeria, adding that Nigeria was in dire need of the funds to support the implementation of more projects for the benefit of Nigeria and its citizens.
The Ambassador of the United States of American to Nigeria, who represented her country, Mrs Mary Beth Leonard in her remarks said, she was pleased to celebrate the repatriation of approximately $1 million to the Government of Nigeria, adding that the funds were expected to be invested in the critical healthcare sector of Bayelsa State.
“This marks the conclusion of a legal process launched over 15 years ago following the tenure of governor Diepreve Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha also known as DSP. During his tenure as a public servant from 1999 until his impeachment in 2005, DSP’s official salary did not exceed the equivalent of about $81,000 per year. However, during that time, he accumulated millions of dollars’ worth of property through corrupt acts such as abuse of office, money laundering, and other violations of Nigerian and U.S. law” she informed.
The Ambassador also explained that the US brought a case against DSP through the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, as a part of efforts to combat money laundering and corruption. She added that, Prosecutors working under that initiative were responsible for investigations and litigation to recover the proceeds of foreign official corruption. The funds are then returned in accordance with US obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption and to further the tenets of transparency and accountability set forth in the Global Forum on Asset Recovery Principles for Disposition and Transfer of Confiscated Stolen Assets in Corruption Cases.
“We are glad to see the fruits of such efforts in returns such as this one. As a result of today’s agreement, health care across Bayelsa will be improved through the rehabilitation, refurbishment, and equipping of health care centers, as requested by the state. In other words, these recovered proceeds – as was the case for the Mecosta Agreement we signed in August 2022 – will be transformed into assets that benefit the people harmed by the underlying corrupt conduct – to improve the lives of average Nigerians, not the corrupt elite” she indicated.
Mary Bent explained that in 2022, the Department of State publicly designated over 80 corrupt foreign officials and their immediate family members and denied them entry into the United States under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State’s annual Appropriations Act. Said the signing of the Asset Return agreement represents a continuation of US deep commitment to facilitating the recovery and return of the proceeds of official corruption to the Nigerian people. It is also a testament to the partnership between the two democracies. She promised that the United States would continue to do its part to deny safe haven to corrupt actors and the assets they have illicitly acquired, whether from here in Nigeria or other parts of the world.
In attendance was the Bayelsa State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Mr Biriyai Dambo, SAN, who represented his Governor Mr. Douye Diri. He applauded the collaboration between Nigeria Government and the Government of United States of America for signing the Asset Return Agreement on the Looted Funds by the former Governor, DSP Alamieyeseigha.
The Governor said the State was ready to cooperate with the Federal Government to see to the successful return of the assets and also ensure that the funds would be utilised to bring succour to the people of Bayelsa State as agreed.
In her vote of thanks, Director International Cooperation in the Ministry, Mrs Antoinette Ifeanyi Oche-Obe acknowledged the challenges encountered in the struggle to repatriate the looted funds in the last twelve years. Oche-Obe also appreciated the tireless efforts of the International Asset Recovery Unit of the Ministry led by the Senior Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, on Justice Reform and International Relations; Mrs Juliet Ibekaku Nwagwu which culminated in signing of the Asset Return Agreement.
Mercy Morenike Omoyajowo
For: Director Information
16th February, 2023