Remove Bottlenecks In Repatriation Of Looted Funds – MURIC

Although Nigeria officially went into recession a few weeks ago, Western countries still continue to dilly dally over the possible repatriation of the country’s stolen funds being kept in their vaults.

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) frowns at the West’s unnecessary delay in the repatriation of funds stolen from Nigeria. It amounts to stealing by proxy, neo-imperialism and financial terrorism.

Staggering amounts allegedly stolen by past officials of the Nigerian government are enough to rescue Nigeria from the current economic quagmire. Abacha loot alone is estimated to be about $11.3 billion. Fifty five Nigerians stole N1.34 trillion in eight years from 2007 to 2015. N30 trillion which represents some accruable income to the Federal Government during the last four years of the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan is allegedly missing. NNPC allegedly failed to remit a whopping $3.8bn and N358.3bn to the Federal Government account in 2013. Nigeria also reportedly lost about $15 billion to arms fraud during the Jonathan regime.

The lion share of the looted funds has been traced to Western countries. But instead of releasing the money, these countries have engaged in procrastinations and conspiracies for reasons best known to them. Sometimes the funds are released in trickles. For example Switzerland has kept the Abacha loot for about 20 years. It returned $723 million to Nigeria over a period of ten years whereas about N218 billion of the same Abacha loot alone (among many others) is still being kept in Swiss custody to date. This is outrageous and therefore unacceptable. Piecemeal return of stolen funds indicate reluctance to release funds belonging to poor countries.

The question MURIC is asking the ambassadors of those Western countries keeping (and using) Nigeria’s looted money is “What has our money been doing in your country for so long? Has it remained untouched? Hasn’t your country’s economy been benefitting from this blood money over the years? Where is the interest accruing to funds returned piecemeal? What do you call receivers (and users) of stolen money in your country?”

For impoverishing the very people they are supposed to serve, looters of public funds should be treated as financial terrorists. Aiding and abetting looters in any form constitute financial terrorism while Western countries who create legal bottlenecks or clogs in the wheel of repatriation of stolen funds are neo-imperialists cum sponsors of financial terrorism. It is needless to say that financial terrorism is the Mother of All Terrorism.

Western democracy and capitalism constitute threats to the developing world and Sustainable Development Goals as long as the propagators and ideologues continue to allow assets stolen from developing countries to remain in their vaults. This tortuous policy encourages global economic disparities and deepens the compartmentalization of the world into the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.

It is hypocritical to preach transparency and good governance yet benefit from funds looted from poor countries. There can be no true globalization until socio-economic justice is entrenched at the international level. Western democracy therefore remains a fraud and a sham until countries like Britain, the United States, France, Germany and Switzerland expedite action to release funds looted from foreign countries to the affected governments.

The conditionalities for returning looted money attached by those Western countries are appalling, irritating and despicable. In particular, the conditionality imposed on Nigeria which allows the World Bank to supervise the spending of returned assets by the Nigerian government breaches international law principles and standards. Why should the World Bank supervise how we spend our money when the same bank is controlled by those who illegally confiscated the money in the first place?

This angle becomes interesting in the wake of the revelation by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo that the World Bank often dissuades leaders of the Third World from spending huge amounts of money on capital projects which are capable of improving the citizens’ standard of living.

These receivers of stolen money have no excuse for attaching such conditionality to the possible return of the money this time around particularly under the regime of President Muhammadu Buhari who has been acclaimed worldwide as prudent, transparent and highly credible. The Buhari administration has assured world leaders that recovered funds are “being channeled towards the development of critical infrastructure and the implementation of social inclusion programmes for our people”.

In conclusion, MURIC calls for concerted efforts aimed at developing an international legal framework for ensuring speedy and unconditional return of stolen funds to countries which are confirmed as owners. A short timeframe must be adopted by the United Nations (UN) for any country to keep money looted from another. The UN should treat countries which exceed the deadline for the repatriation of stolen funds as receivers of stolen money, international thieves and financial terrorists.

Such countries should be blacklisted by the World Bank while commensurate sanctions should be applied on them. Leaders of such countries who sit tight on money stolen from developing countries should be tried at the International Court of Justice at the Hague for financial terrorism and crimes against humanity.

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)