• Nigerian government is planning to share the recovered $322 million looted by ex-military leader, Sani Abacha, with poor citizens.

The Nigerian government has said that the recovered $322 million stolen fund by the former military leader, Sani Abacha will be returned to the rightful owners – the masses.

This the government planned to do through the Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) - a welfare programme aimed at ameliorating poverty through the transfers of money to persons who meet certain criteria.

Tukur Rumar, representative of the National Cash Transfer Office said the disbursement will be made to 302,000 poor households in 19 states of the federation in July 2018.

The states are Niger, Kogi, Ekiti, Osun, Oyo, Kwara, Cross River, Bauchi, Gombe, Jigawa, Benue, Taraba, Adamawa, Kano, Katsina, Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Anambra and Internally Displaced Camps (IDPs) in Borno.

Rumar made this known at a roundtable on assets recovery organised by the Swiss Embassy last Thursday, in Abuja.

Nigeria-Switzerland repatriation deal

The repatriation and confiscation of the Geneva funds followed the conclusion of an agreement in July 2014 between Nigeria, the Swiss government and the Abacha family.

It was agreed upon that the recovered loot will be spent on social protection programmes in the country.

If the monitoring is not effective, the funds will be returned to the Geneva authorities.

Since the return of the funds, Nigerians, as well as the international communities, do not trust the Nigerian government to effectively utilise the repatriated Abacha loot.

No data, no official statistics, how will government determine poor Nigerians?

According to Rumar, the benefiting households will receive N5,000 monthly and are derived from the National Social Register (NSR) that the 19 states are already on. He said the programme was designed to also train beneficiaries on livelihood skills, social skills and other programmes that would change their lives completely.

Buhari-led government wants to use data from the social register book

Iorwa Apera, the National Coordinator, National Social Safety Net Coordinating Office (NASSCO), said 503,055 households were already on the NSR register from the 19 states, adding that by July, there would be a social register for all the states of the federation.

He said of the Abacha loot, about 302,000 poor homes across the 19 states would be mined by the NCTO to begin to receive the Abacha loot.

Why 19 states out of 36 states?

The Nigerian government said the accredited 19 states had already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with NASSCO to put in place a certain infrastructure to empower the national register.

The government added that by July 2018, there would be a social register for all the states of the federation.

“Some of the states delayed, but the other ones were quick enough to set up infrastructure that allowed us to start work there, but all the states are now on board as they have set up their state operating offices and donated office equipment to us."

“As states come on board, we enrol and so they extend to the beneficiary register, and presently we are generating data in all the states now,’’ he said.

Nigerians are sceptical about government's data and sincerity

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) said the plan by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari to share the $350million (around N115 billion) loot recovered from the former military ruler, late Gen. Sani Abacha among estimated 300,000 households, with each getting around $14 (around N5,000) a month is mis-targeted.

Timothy Adewale, SERAP's deputy director advised President Muhammadu Buhari to invest the recovered fund in tangible projects that would improve access of those living in poverty to essential public services such as water, education and health.

He said: “In any case, distributing the returned loot to households in 19 states because the remaining 17 state governments have not yet put in place the appropriate platform through which to implement the NAASP is both unfair and discriminatory."

SERAP said the plan to share the loot among households is mere tokenism and would neither have a significant impact on poverty alleviation nor satisfy the twin objectives of justice and development.

[No available link text]

[No available link text]

[No available link text]

[No available link text]

What is the role of World Bank?

The role of the World Bank is to monitor the use of the funds. In December 2014, a Swiss court ruled that the Swiss government should repatriate the funds on condition that the World Bank would monitor their use.

While the World Bank’s role is limited to monitoring the use of the funds, the responsibility for the use of the funds is with the Federal Government of Nigeria.

No more fund in Swiss

Eric Mayoraz, the Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, last week, said the country has successfully repatriated over $1 billion stashed away by the late Nigerian military head of state in Switzerland.

Recall that Switzerland had earlier returned $752 million, which the late dictator and family hid away in Swiss banks to Nigeria in 2006. In December 2017, the country also repatriated another $321 million, which is now being domiciled in Nigeria’s Central Bank.

Will poor citizens benefit from the Abacha loot?

Last week, the World Data Lab released a damning report on poverty level in Nigeria. The report states that over 86 million out of 190 million Nigerians are extremely poor and about 6 people become poor every minute in Africa's largest economy.

For the government to really make an impact, the real owner of the looted funds – the masses -  must be the sole beneficiary of it.

Apart from the sharing, the funds can be used to fund education, establish primary health care centres across the country and grant loans to farmers and market women. When this is done without political favour or partisan, poverty line will drastically reduce in no time.