The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has explained how
the Olusegun Obasanjo administration spent the loot recovered from the
late maxiumn dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha.
She said that contrary to reports that the sum of $2bn was recovered
from Abacha’s loot, only $500m was recovered under her watch when she
was first made finance minister.
The minister made the clarification amidst conflicting figures about
the actual amount recovered.
For instance, speaking in London in November 2006, the pioneer
Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu
Ribadu, had said that “Abacha took over $6bn from Nigeria,” and that
$2bn of the loot had been recovered.
Ribadu repeated the same figure in the same month during the 12th
International Anti-Corruption Conference in Guatemela.
Three months ago, Ribadu repeated the same claim in Dakar at the 2nd
Annual High Level Dialogue on Governance and Democracy in Africa.
As Minister of Finance in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration,
Okonjo-Iweala, in 2005 – a year before Ribadu made his claim – at a
news conference in Switzerland reportedly said that Nigeria had
recovered about $2bn total of asset from Abacha.
But reacting to the conflicting claims on the stolen money, the
minister who spoke through her Special Adviser Communication, Mr. Paul
Nwabuikwu, said that the recovered $500m under her watch was verified
and used in a structured manner for developmental projects.Nwabuikwu
said, “The minister did not say only $500m was recovered as the entire
loot of Abacha. What she actually said was that under her watch when
she was in government as a minister, it was that amount that was
recovered. And that money was used in a structured way to carry out
some programmes of government.
“You will recall that at a point, she left government to return after
some years and she cannot be held accountable for whatever happens
when she was not in office.
“So the bottom line is that only $500m was the amount recovered when
she was in government.”
On how the funds were utilised, the minister through her special
adviser said part of the recovered loot was used to fund projects in
the power, health, works, health, education and water sectors.
The minister supported her claims with a report jointly prepared by
the World Bank and Ministry of Finance – a copy of which was made
available to our correspondent,
According to the document, the sum of N21.70bn was spent on power
(rural electrification and power generation); N18.6bn on works
(priority economic roads); and N10.83bn on health (primary health care
and vaccination programme).
Also, N7.74bn was utilised on basic and secondary school education
(primary schools, junior secondary schools and federal government
colleges) and N6.20bn on water (potable water and rural irrigation).