HUMAN rights lawyer, Femi Falana,
has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to reject the condition attached by
the Swiss government before the return of $321 million Abacha loot to Nigeria.
Premium Times had earlier quoted a
letter to the president written by Mr Falana, in which the lawyer said though
corruption is a problem in Nigeria; the conditions provided by the Swiss
government were a violation of international laws.
“In the event that the government
of Switzerland refuses to return the said sum of $321 million without any
conditionality, the Federal Government should not hesitate to initiate legal
proceedings for the recovery of the asset,” Falana, a Senior Advocate of
Nigeria, stated in the letter dated September 9.
“In the proposed suit, Nigeria
should claim punitive and exemplary damages and interests from Switzerland for
keeping the loot for over 20 years,” he added.
In July, the Swiss government
signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nigerian government towards the
return of the money looted by Nigeria’s late dictator, Sani Abacha.
A first tranche of the Abacha loot
– $722 million – had been repatriated to Nigeria in 2005.
Eric Mayoraz, the Swiss Ambassador
to Nigeria, said the MoU signed in July would help remove bottlenecks usually
associated with the return of the loot.
But according to Mr Falana, the
Swiss government had included in the MoU a condition that requires the World
Bank to supervise the spending of the returned loot.
“We note that grand corruption,
money laundering and return of stolen assets have long become major issues of
concern to the international community.
“We further note that Switzerland
has acceded to all the relevant international treaties such as the United
Nations Convention against Corruption for the return of assets.
“We believe that the conditionality
imposed on Nigeria, which allows the World Bank to supervise the spending of
returned assets by the Nigerian government, breaches international law
principles and standards.
“In particular, Article 57 of the
UN Convention against Corruption requires states parties to return assets ‘on
the basis of a final judgment in the requesting state party.’ But in
circumstances where there is no ‘final judgment,’ Article 57 allows for assets
to be returned on the basis of ‘agreements or mutually acceptable arrangements,
on a case-by-case basis, for the final disposal of confiscated property.’
“While the UN Convention against
Corruption contains provisions for ‘special considerations’ when states parties
are concluding agreements, this does not give the government of Switzerland the
right to unilaterally impose conditions on Nigeria,” Mr. Falana said.
He added that Article 57 suggested
Switzerland had no legal authority to impose conditions on Nigeria regarding
the spending of recovered assets.
Falana also said the World Bank had
failed to demonstrate sufficient level of transparency and accountability in
its supervision of previously repatriated Abacha loot.