By Olumide Ajayi
The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), a civic group, has commended the Nigerian government for its utilisation of the $322.5 million tranche of the Abacha loot repatriated from Switzerland.
The Executive Director of the organisation, David Ugolor, gave the commendation at a three-day media workshop organised for journalists in Abuja.
The workshop, supported by the Swiss Embassy in Nigeria, was put together to train journalists on Asset Recovery and Anti-Corruption issues within the global community. It was also aimed at exposing journalists to various means of accessing information on asset recovery from different sources across the globe.
Speaking at the event, Mr Ugolor commended the Nigerian government for following the agreed process in the disbursement of the Abacha loot, saying rumours of sharp practices in the disbursement processes are unfounded. He explained that the fund is being channeled to improve the living conditions of Nigeria’s poor people.
“We have monitored 11 states, met with beneficiaries of the N5,000 monthly Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), Programme and we are impressed,” he explained. He added, however, that the disbursement system is not perfect as there are challenges but it still serves its intended purpose.
“Some people will say is it benefitting the poor? It does. People sit in the comfort of their home in Abuja and Lagos and say what will N5,000 do? But we met with very poor people who have not had access to such money before, they are now able to buy drugs to treat their children, at least work together to undertake some livelihood project and others.
“That for me is something that is very remarkable and something to build on, though there is room for improvement.”
The ANEEJ boss also commended the Swiss government for its intervention. He added that for the first time in Nigeria, ANEEJ was involved in signing the MoU about the repatriation between Switzerland and Nigerian governments. Its involvement, he explained, has ensured transparency and accountability in the disbursement process.
Speaking further, the ANEEJ boss solicited global support for the repatriation of other looted funds domiciled in other jurisdictions aside Switzerland. He explained that with the organisation’s Monitoring of Recovered Asset through transparency and Accountability project (MANTRA), it will ensure that the recovered money is judiciously used.
He also called on the National Assembly to pass the Proceeds of Crime Bill into law, adding that it will provide institutional support for asset recovery in the country.
Meanwhile, also speaking at the event, Nick Idoko urged the journalists to be professional and diligent in their reporting. Mr Idoko, a professor of Mass Communication, said professional reportage of issues around corruption and asset recovery would contribute to transparency in the nation’s corridor of power.
The communication scholar also took journalists through the various means of ensuring effective communication and addressing various barriers to effective communication.