ANEEJ Raises Alarm Over Stoppage Payment Of $322.5m Returned Abacha Loot To Poor Nigerians
Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, the civil society group that is independently monitoring the disbursement of the $322.5 million Sani Abacha loot repatriated from Switzerland under the Cash Transfer Programme of the Federal Government has raised alarm over the stoppage of cash disbursements to poor Nigerians since June last year, calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene immediately.
Executive Director of ANEEJ and Convener of the Civil Society Organisations monitoring the disbursement of the returned asset, Reverend David Ugolor raised the alarm in a statement issued in Benin on Thursday.
According to David Ugolor, the last time payment was made to the poor was June last year.
David Ugolor reminded both the Federal government of Nigeria, and Switzerland Government of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by both countries at the maiden edition of the Global Forum on Asset Recovery, GFAR summit held in Washington DC in 2017 as witnessed by the World Bank.
“The last major payment cycle was May/June 2021. Payment and reconciliation of accounts was completed in 24 States (Abia, Adamawa, Cross Rivers, FCT, Bayelsa, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Katsina, Bauchi, Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Lagos, Plateau, Anambra, Akwa Ibom, Delta, Ebonyi, Sokoto, Taraba. Between July 2021 and December 2021, there was clearing of backlog owed beneficiaries in the previous year (2020) in Benue, Nasarawa, Ekiti, Imo, Kaduna, Kano, Zamfara, Yobe and Rivers which were at different payment cycle,” Ugolor said.
David Ugolor added that the civil society monitoring team established that as at May/June 2021, a total number of 1, 632, 206 beneficiaries in 33 States excluding Edo, Enugu, Ondo and Kebbi were on the payment schedule list. A total of 812, 721 households were paid while total unpaid households stood at 819, 485.
David Ugolor stated that the total amount paid so far is 8, 528,950,000.00 billion naira representing 76 per cent of the returned loot while the balance yet to be disbursed is 2,329,020,000.00 billion naira.
The ANEEJ boss said further that four States had issues with their Payment Service Operators, PSPs since their last payment in December 2019 which has been resolved but the poor in these states have not received any payment up till date, March 2022. According to Ugolor, the States include: Edo, Enugu, Ondo and Kebbi and called on the NCTO authorities to pay the poor in these states.
The Abacha loot disbursement he said is projected to achieve optimal disbursement by May/June 2022 payment cycle, but ANEEJ fears that this target will be missed if payments do not continue
“We must not allow the gold standard achieved on the disbursement of Abacha ll $322.5m drop down. To maintain the standard we have to insist on total transparency and Accountability. GFAR Principles should be applied in the implementation of all projects funded with recovered Stolen assets.
David Ugolor called on the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami to follow through with the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to ensure a complete operationalization of the MoU and conclusion of the cash transfer disbursement.