SPECIAL REPORT: Return Of Abacha Loot: NSIA Earns Global Approval For Structural Transparency
After more than 20 years, the U.S. government, the Bailiwick of Jersey, and the Government of Nigeria signed a deal for the return of more than $308 million, looted by Nigeria’s ex-military dictator Sani Abacha, to the Nigerian people on February 3 at a ceremony hosted by the State Department in Washington DC.
The Department of State said the repatriated funds will be managed and used by the NSIA for three infrastructure projects in strategic economic zones across Nigeria to ensure that the funds are used “responsibly and for the good of the nation.”
A statement issued by Morgan Ortagus, Spokesperson for the Department also disclosed that the agreement was a proof of the confidence the United States government places on President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to the fight against corruption.
The repatriated funds will be applied specifically towards completing the 2nd Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Express Way and the Abuja -Kaduna Highway.
But apart from support for the anti-corruption effort of the Buhari administration, the return of the loot represents a vote of confidence in the strong corporate governance systems of the NSIA in addition to its efficiency in the execution of its mandate.
The approval from Washington D.C no doubt represents a global acclaim which puts the NSIA on the same pedestal of corporate governance with other internationally certified sovereign wealth funds.
The US Department of Justice, Department of State and the Island of Jersey’s Department of State had all subjected the NSIA to close scrutiny and went through nearly two years of due diligence before the decision to put the management of the funds under it was reached.
The outcome is an endorsement of the Authority’s effectiveness, efficient operational systems, and no doubt its compliance with global standards in transparency has made it one of the few institutions deemed worthy to manage repatriated funds.
The NSIA, headed by Mr. Uche Orji, is the agency of the Nigeria government set up to manage funds in excess of budgeted hydrocarbon revenues. Its mission is to play a leading role in driving sustained economic development for the benefit of all Nigerians through building a savings base for the Nigerian people, enhancing the development of Nigeria’s infrastructure and providing stabilization support in times of economic stress.
The NSIA has an independent professional Board which rigorously oversees operations of funds through five committees and is subject to several audits during the year.
In April 2019, the IMF Director, African Department, Abebe Selassie, at a meeting in Washington D.C said the NSIA has been run transparently, based on standard best practice and “has been doing a good job.”