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Anti-graft War In Question! How Buhari Plot To Pay APC Governor’s Forum Chairman $100m From Abacha Loot

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President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption war appears to be bearing a huge question mark over a secret deal to transfer $100 million to Kebbi state Governor Abubakar Bagudu, who reportedly helped late dictator, Sani Abacha to loot Nigeria of whopping sum estimated at $5 billion.

This revelation comes few day after Buhari pledge to make all government financial transactions public as part of his administrator efforts to deepened reforms and ensure that corruption is widely rooted out from the country.

Buhari who spoke at the Passing-Out Parade of Detective Inspector Course Five, of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Kaduna, had said ,”Our fight against corruption is being recognized by the international community as real and effective. The face of the country abroad is also changing as the international community is beginning to see Nigeria making substantial progress in the enthronement of transparency, accountability and good governance,” he noted.

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“My resolve is to ensure that the reforms are deepened such that there will be no hiding place for corrupt persons and proceeds of corruption. My aim is to ensure that no government financial transaction is done in secret and all are subjected to public scrutiny.

“The objective of this administration is to institute a level of transparency in governance through mainly information technology platforms. Just as advanced democracies and some developing countries, I am determined that within a short period, citizens would be able to follow core government operations online,” President Buhari said.

According to him, “Our government has reached advanced stage in Fiscal Transparency. The Appropriation Bill is placed online within hours of its presentation in the National Assembly, he stated.

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But according to a report BIGPEN sourced from Bloomblerg, Nigeria commitment to pay the APC governor the sum appears to undermine Buhari’s anti-graft war as a U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) document which says Bagudu was involved in corruption with Abacha, stated that the APC-led administration is hindering U.S. efforts to recover allegedly laundered money it says it’s traced to Bagudu.

Buhari’s administration says a 17-year-old agreement entitles Bagudu to the funds and prevents Nigeria from assisting the U.S., according to recent filings from the District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington.

“This case illustrates how complex and contentious repatriating stolen assets to Nigeria can be,” said Matthew Page, an associate fellow at London-based Chatham House and former Nigeria expert for U.S. intelligence agencies.

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“Instead of welcoming U.S. efforts, Nigeria’s lawyers appear to be supporting the interests of one of the country’s most powerful families”, the report says.

The DoJ said in a Feb. 3 statement that Bagudu, 58, was part of a network controlled by Abacha that “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria.”

In the case involving Bagudu, the U.S. in 2013 initiated a forfeiture action against a host of assets, including four investment portfolios held in London in trust for him and his family, according to the district court filings.

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Despite the forfeiture action being initiated following a Nigerian state request in 2012, Buhari’s government now says it can’t assist the U.S. because it’s bound by a settlement Bagudu reached with the administration of then-President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003, according to the court filings.

Under the terms of that accord, which was approved by a U.K. court, Bagudu returned $163 million of allegedly laundered money to the Nigerian authorities, which in exchange dropped all outstanding civil and criminal claims against him “stemming from his involvement in government corruption,” according to a Dec. 23 memorandum opinion by District Judge John D. Bates in Washington D.C.

That meant “Nigeria renounced any interest whatsoever” in Bagudu’s trust assets, including those the U.S. is attempting to recover for Nigeria.

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According to the report, after Bagudu successfully sued Nigeria for violating the 2003 settlement, Buhari’s administration reached a new agreement with him in October 2018, according to the court filings.

That would result in the transfer of ownership of the investment portfolios, worth 141 million euros ($155 million) to the Nigerian state, which would then pay 98.5 million euros to Bagudu and his affiliates, according to Bates’ Dec. 23 opinion.

Nigeria’s government claims the updated 2018 agreement with the Kebbi governor, which requires court approval in the U.K., will “curtail and mitigate its looming exposure” from the judgment in Bagudu’s favor.

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Buhari’s administration submitted the 2018 deal to the U.K. court in September to support its application to unfreeze the assets so they can be sent to Nigeria, according to the opinion.

The funds are currently restrained by the U.K. at the request of the U.S which is currently opposing plans by Buhari’s government to hand about $100 million to Bugudu.

The disagreement may hamper future cooperation between the two nations to recover state money moved offshore by Abacha, who Transparency International estimates may have looted as much as $5 billion during his 1993-98 rule.

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Bagudu who is chairman of an influential body of governors representing the ruling All Progressives Congress, was able to return to Nigeria after concluding the settlement and was elected as a senator in 2009. Six years later, he was voted in as Kebbi’s governor in elections that brought Buhari and his party to power.

Neither Bagudu nor a spokesman for Attorney General Abubakar Malami responded to requests for comment. A spokesman for Buhari said the settlement and the litigation were matters for Malami.

Successive Nigerian governments have sought to recoup the money looted by Abacha, who died in office, and have so far repatriated more than $2 billion with the cooperation of other countries, according to U.S. court filings.

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