* Says Mambilla Power project, 2nd Niger bridge, others to benefit
By Egena Sunday Ode
The Presidency has listed the Mambilla Power project, second Niger bridge, Lagos-Ibadan as well as Abuja-Kaduna-Kano expressways as projects that would gulp the $311 million “Abacha loot” just returned to the country by the United States.
The Presidency in a statement Tuesday by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, asserted that the money had already been allocated to those projects it described as vital and decades-overdue infrastructure development.
“On Monday, May 4, 2020, some $311 million US Dollars – stolen from the citizens of Nigeria during the Abacha regime – were safely returned to our country from the United States.
“These funds have already been allocated, and will be used in full, for vital and decades-overdue infrastructure development: The second Niger Bridge, the Lagos-Ibadan and Abuja-Kaduna-Kano expressways – creating tens of thousands of Nigerian construction jobs and local skills, which can then be useful in future projects.
“Part of the funds will also be invested in the Mambilla Power Project which, when completed, will provide electricity to some three million homes – over ten million citizens – in our country,” the Presidency said.
Stating that the fight against the Coronavirus disease would have been more difficult without those funds, it noted that their receipt and the ones before them had provided opportunity for the development of the country, adding that the $320 returned last year by Switzerland had been channeled into the free school feeding scheme.
The statement said; “The receipt of these stolen monies – and the hundreds of millions more that have already been returned from the United Kingdom and Switzerland – are an opportunity for the development of our nation, made far harder for those decades the country was robbed of these funds.
“Indeed, previous monies returned last year from Switzerland – some $320 million US dollars – are already being used for the government’s free school feeding scheme, a stipend for millions of disadvantaged citizens, and grain grants for those in severe food hardship.
Without these funds, the fight against Covid-19 would be even tougher.”
Recall that the US government had allegedly threatened to compel Nigeria to return the latest tranche of the Abacha loot if the country failed to utilize the money for reasonable infrastructure development. The US was said to have given the warning in reaction to reports that the country had entered into an agreement to pay some persons huge commissions on the returned loot running into billions of Naira.
According to the Presidency however, the $311 million returned from Jersey in US was evidence that the UK and US as well as other jurisdictions had found that they could trust the country under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari as successive Nigerian governments were deemed too corrupt and most likely to re-steal the stolen funds.
“The latest return is a testament to the growing and deepening relationship between the government of Nigeria and the government of the United States.
“Without the cooperation both from the UK Government, the US Executive branch and US Congress, we would not have achieved the return of these funds at all.
“For years many countries deemed successive Nigerian administrations as too corrupt, too venal and too likely to squander and re-steal the stolen monies – so they did not return the funds.
“Today, US, UK and other jurisdictions have found the partnership with the nation of Nigeria they can finally trust.
“The Buhari Administration is committed to – and is enacting – total and zero tolerance to corruption in politics and public administration.
“The days when government was seen and used by the political class as their personal ATM to empty are over.
“The time of better governance and clean hands in the affairs of state is here to stay,” the Presidency asserted in the statement.