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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Nigeria, US to draw roadmap on $500m looted funds return

• Trump’s visit on hold till after elections
• Explains quantum of investments expected

Presidents Muhammadu Buhari and Donald Trump have agreed for the two attorney generals of both countries to draw a roadmap on how $500 million looted funds that has been traced would be returned to Nigeria.

Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, who made the disclosure when he briefed journalists alongside the ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah and Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, at the end of the business meeting Buhari had with CEOs of Nigeria and US businesses, said the roadmap was drawn yesterday afternoon.

The AGF noted that three key remarks from Trump consolidated on the general overview of what transpired between the two presidents.

According to him, Trump’s acknowledgement of Buhari as a real leader, his acknowledgment that the administration has indeed succeeded in cutting down corruption and the payment of N135 million compensation to victims of the Apo six killed in 2013, was an indication that the meeting was a fruitful one.
Malami also said Trump’s commitment towards assets recovery and repatriation of looted funds was also demonstrated during the meeting.

There was a clear political goodwill and commitment that has now been given by the respective governments in terms of working together towards the repatriation of the looted funds and assets.

“To that extent, there has been clear directives for both attorney generals to meet and have a roadmap for the repatriation of the assets. That meeting is now slated for tomorrow (yesterday) to work on the repatriation of over $500 million which is ready for repatriation subject to clearing the bureaucratic bottlenecks,” he revealed.
Asked whether the $500 million is the first tranche or there was a possibility of more trailing, the AGF replied: “One thing I can tell you is that investigation is ongoing and the numbers keeps changing with time. But as far as the immediate negotiations with US is concern, it is a figure between $500 million and above. That is what is on the table immediately for discussions.”

Malami was, however, silent on the timeline the money will be repatriated.
“I can’t state categorically what we are looking at in timeline sense but the truth is we are looking at the shortest practicable time. The fact that there is political commitment by the two presidents is a clear demonstration of the fact that the possibility of having the money repatriated within the shortest possible time cannot be ruled out.”
He said another subject Buhari’s administration got commendations for was in the area of human rights record in the country.

Recall the Apo six incident in 2005 where security agents reportedly committed human rights violations by the unjustified killings of six people. Last month, , the Federal Government paid N135 million to the victims.
According to the AGF, that has further been consolidated by the fact that two of the police officers that were involved in the murder of the Apo six were sentenced to death through judiciary process.

“The payment was recommended by Human Right Commission. So, it is a clear demonstration of the respect for the human right commission and its decision and respect for human rights against the background that for the first time, the Federal Government is paying compensation, he said.

On possible Trump visit, Onyeama said with Nigeria’s forthcoming elections and the busy schedules of both presidents, it will take at least a year for such visit to be planned.

President Trump had indicated interest in visiting Nigeria, describing it as an amazing and beautiful country.
Enelamah, on the quantum of investment expected, said: “First, on Friday, the government signed investment agreement with General Electric on the railway concessions. The agreement is going to be in two phases. The first phase is to get the job rolling; that will involve over $40 million investment that will get some of the existing rail tracks working, with the right coaches and carriages to get some of the cargo and passengers going. And then, there is the big one which is the $2 billion investment to revamp our existing rail and making sure its use for cargo and transport. That is the narrow gauge and the existing rails we have in addition to all the new ones we have. So, that is just one investment from one company.

“Some of the companies Mr. President met with were John Deere that is looking to assemble and supply tractors in Nigeria. At its full expression, it is expected to exceed 10,000 tractors. Initially, it’s going to be in hundreds but there is no question that it fits this model of trying to invest in Nigeria, train people, employ people and help the agriculture value chain in terms of its mechanisation, automation and all the good things that come from a company like John Deere…
“Our own companies were there as well including the Dangote Group. Everyone of these companies is committed to making serious investment in Nigeria that runs into hundreds of millions of dollars and in aggregate will become billions of dollars just.”

Enelamah said Buhari also met with Boeing, Procter & Gamble, Chevron and others.

“So in terms of investment and commitment, there is every reason to be positive, it is certainly in the billions of dollars, we need to sharpen our pencils and take it on.”

On exactly what Trump meant by agric produce coming to Nigeria, Enelamah replied: “What is to take away is that there is a lot of scope for collaboration between Nigeria and the US. Our view is that the major scope is that the fact you have these agric businesses whether they are in equipment like John Deer or are in crops and seeds and enhancement like Coteva and Bongi or continental grains, that can help improve production in Nigeria. So, most of them will certainly function there. Clearly when it comes to trade between the two countries, there will always be scope for trade. But right now, when you include oil, it will means Nigeria exporting more to the US but when you remove oil, the US is actually exporting more to Nigeria. I think the important thing is that the balance of trade should grow on both sides and it should be win-win. And that is exactly what will happen based on what we will see today.”

From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye,
Washington DC

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