By Lateef Ibrahim Abuja
In its determination to ensure utmost transparency and accountability in disbursement of the recovered $322.5m stolen funds popularly referred to as ‘Abacha Loot’, a civil society organization, ANEEJ, has commenced the training of about one hundred (100) partners and supervisors to achieve that purpose.
The various participants, in the training programme which took off in Abuja yesterday, are to be deployed to the various states in the country to further train others.
The Executive Director of ANEEJ, Rev David Ugolor, while declaring open the 2-day “Train The Trainers Workshop”, explained that the disbursement of the 322.5 million dollars Abacha loot in the programme is scheduled to start from October 2018.
Rev Ugolor pointed out that the cash transfer programme has been on since last year with funding from the national budget and a loan facility from the World Bank.
According to the Executive Director, “To provide a bit of a background, In December 2017, the Swiss government repatriated funds stolen from Nigeria by the late Gen. Sani Abacha. A total of $322.5m was repatriated comprising $321m and $1.5m interest.
“This was about the last tranch of money kept in Swiss Banks by Nigeria’s former leader. “This followed a period of negotiations between the Nigerian government and Swiss government before the MoU for the return of the loot was signedduring the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) held in Washington in December, 2017.
“The federal government of Nigeria announced to Nigerians that the $322.5m will be used to support the poorest of the poor through the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme which is also called Household Uplifting Programme.
“The cash transfer programme has been on sincelast year with funding from the national budget and a loan facility from the World Bank.
“The disbursement of the 322.5 million dollars Abacha loot in the programme is scheduled to start from October 2018.
“As part of the implementation of the Monitoring of Recovered Assets in Nigeria through Transparency and Accountability (MANTRA) project with support from UKAID, ANEEJ is working with six partners to monitor the use of the Abacha loot in the Conditional CashTransfer Programme across states that are implementing the programme.
“The training that you will be undergoing in the next two days is to prepare you for that monitoring exercise.
“At a broader,our objective is for this training to deepen your understanding and experience about the role of civil society in processes to ensure the transparent and accountable recovery and utilization of looted assets in Nigeria.
“The involvement of ANEEJ in this process is built on the fact that we were part of the MoU between Switzerland and Nigeria for the repatriation of this tranche of Abacha loot. “This level of recognition given to a civil society organisation in an agreement between two sovereign states is unprecedented.
“We therefore have a unique opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of having civil society deeply involved in such processes. And the best way to do this is by ensuring that there is utmost transparency and accountability in the use of such repatriated assets for the benefits of Nigerians.
“By your selection and participation in this training through our Partners, you are now an integral part of this process and we hope and believe that we can all demonstrate the needed enthusiasm and commitment to the achievement of these objectives.