Abuja, Nigeria. 5 November, 2023.
The African Center for Governance, Asset Recovery and Sustainable Development welcomes the recent announcement by President Tinubu informing Nigerians that France has returned or has agreed to return $150 million to Nigeria.
It may be recalled that the process for the return of the stolen assets traced to late General Sani Abacha, commenced with General Abdulsalami in 1998 and continued with President Buhari’s administration, which recovered almost $659 million and put in place measures to ensure transparency in the return of stolen funds from foreign jurisdictions. The previous government, led by the Federal Ministry of Justice, commenced the negotiation for the return of the stolen funds located in France in 2017 and had written to France and the United States Department of Justice several times on the matter since the USDOJ placed an initial restraint order for the forfeiture of the funds. More than $200 million of assets stolen by the Abacha family remain under forfeiture orders and at various stages of negotiation between the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
The funds traced to France have been under a court forfeiture order since 2014; however, in conversations with the Nigerian government, France had consistently maintained that it sought approval to determine how to cooperate with Nigeria since its laws did not allow it to return such funds. France had met with the President’s representative of the previous administration at the Federal Ministry of Justice. France had reiterated its commitment to work with Nigeria to return the forfeited funds in line with the already established protocols on using funds for specific development projects, monitored by civil society organisations, and for the benefit of millions of Nigerians.
We are happy that the Forfeiture Laws in France have changed and that France can effectively cooperate with foreign countries to return stolen assets. However, international asset recovery must be embedded within the transparency and cooperative framework established in 2017 under the Global Forum on Asset Recovery.
It is essential to reiterate the main points of the GFAR principles built on dialogue, the use of asset return agreement to ensure the effective, transparent administration and monitoring of returned assets, identifying and ensuring that victims benefit from the return, strengthening the development of anti-corruption measures, exclusion of benefit to offenders, and inclusion of civil society stakeholders is essential for a transparent and beneficial return for Nigerian citizens. The successful return of assets to Nigeria over the past eight years has been based on respect for the GFAR procedures. We urge His Excellency, President Tinubu, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, and France not to deviate from these measures. We call on countries to continue to support Nigeria as it reclaims its commonwealth.
African Center for Governance, Asset Recovery and Sustainable Development
More information on our work can be found on our website: www.africancenterdev.org or our social media handles: LinkedIn: africenterdev Instagram: africenterdev or Facebook: africenterdev.
 The following multilateral agreements were signed for the return of these funds related to Abacha stolen assets starting in 2017 with (a) FRN, and Switzerland ($322m), (b) FRN, USA and the Bailiwick of Jersey ($311m), (c)FRN and UK ($20m), (d) FRN and Northern Ireland €5.49m) available at https://justice.gov.ng/category/asset-recovery/ accessed on 5 November 2023