The Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has explained that the $500M recovered Abacha loot was used to develop the nation’s rural areas.
The Minister was reacting to a recent article by one Sonala Olumhense who alleged that $2.5 billion was recovered from the funds looted by the then maximum ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha but that the money disappeared under the Minister’s watch.
Explaining how the huge amount was spent, the Minister said $500M, not $2.5 billion was recovered and had been spent on development projects in rural areas as agreed with the Swiss government.
A statement by Mr. Paul Nwabikwu, Special Adviser to the Minister said that the claims by Mr. Olumhense were unverified and baseless.
The statement reads in full,
“The problem I have with Mr Sonala Olumhense’s articles on the Coordinating Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is the general absence of verified facts and the basing of opinions on gross inaccuracies.
“For instance, Mr Olumhense writes that $2.5 billion of Abacha money was recovered during Dr Okonjo Iweala’s time as Finance Minister under President Obasanjo and that the money disappeared implying some involvement in the disappearance by the Minister. This is absolutely false. First, the amount recovered was $500 million, not $2.5 billion.
“The recovered amount was channeled into rural projects and programmes as per the agreement with the Swiss government which repatriated the funds. A combined team of Nigerian and Swiss NGOs with the World Bank later verified the use of this money on the ground in the projects cited and they certified the money had been accurately utilized.
“The World Bank had written about this in a 2007/ 2008 Handbook on stolen Asset Recovery where the case was cited as a best practice example of how to deploy returned proceeds of looted assets. Readers of Mr Olumhense would benefit more if his passionate writings on Dr Okono Iweala are supported by a bit more research as opposed to sweeping, unverified statements”
“This is the best way to proceed given the conflicting claims by Mr Sanusi Lamido Sanusi and the NNPC. After all the speeches and comments like that of Mr Olumhense, the fundamental problem of determining the facts as a basis for action must still be tackled. Is there room for more action on corruption? Of course the answer can only be yes. But action is needed to achieve change. Talk is cheap, action is crucial.
“The clean up of the fraud in the subsidy payments regime to oil marketers for which she paid a heavy personal price in the form of the abduction of her mother by paid kidnappers in November 2012 is one clear example”.
“Another example is the clean up of the pension fraud with the establishment now of a new institution under the Federal Ministry of Finance – the Pension Transition Administration Department to ensure that pensioners under the old defined benefits scheme are not defrauded anymore”, he said