A civil society organisation, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has through an open letter urged the President of the United States, Mr. Donald Trump, to release to Nigeria about $500m which a former military dictator, Sani Abacha, stole and stashed in the US.
A US-based Volunteer Counsel to the organisation, Prof. Alexander Sierck, and its Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, urged Trump to instruct the US Justice Department to immediately initiate the civil asset forfeiture proceedings in respect of the $500m.
The letter which was also copied to the US ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington, and the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, read in part, “SERAP urges your new administration to initiate discussions with the Nigerian government to fulfill these objectives within an agreed framework and timeline.
“Simultaneously, the administration should instruct the Justice Department to initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings in regard to the above-referenced $500m in assets described above.
“SERAP notes that Article 51 of the UN Convention against Corruption provides for the return of ‘corrupt’ assets to countries of origin as a fundamental principle. Article 43 provides likewise. Similarly, under Article 47(3)(a) and (b) states parties have an obligation to return forfeited or confiscated assets in cases of public corruption, as here, or when the requesting party reasonably establishes either prior ownership or damages to the states.
“In SERAP’s judgment, some or all of these requirements have been met with respect to the $500m in proceeds described above.”