Following request from Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), the Federal Government has agreed to seek from the US government repatriation of forfeiture order on USD 401,931 in assets belonging to Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha, the former Governor of Baylelsa State in Nigeria, who has been convicted in Nigeria of money laundering and unjust enrichment while in political office.
The letter with reference number SGF/PS/PCG/200/T, dated 25 September 2012, and signed by MS Hassan, Head, Central Authority Unit, on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), reads in part, “I am directed by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 11 September 2012. I am further directed to inform you that urgent action is being taken to repatriate the loot and the decision of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice shall be communicated to you in due course. Please accept the warm regards of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice”.
In response, SERAP through its Executive Director Adetokunbo Mumuni stated: “We welcome the expressed commitment by the government to seek from the US repatriation of the loot by Mr Alamieyeseigha. We hope that this process will promptly take place as promised by the government.” “But we also urge the government to adopt a holistic and comprehensive approach to recovery of stolen assets so that all other stolen assets by all corrupt public officials are promptly and fully recovered and used to improve the country’s infrastructure and provide the basic necessities of life to millions of Nigerians .living in poverty and misery.”
“The government should also go further by seeking damages from foreign corporations that have engaged in corruption in Nigeria. In this respect, SERAP urges the government to seek damages from SAFRAN (formerly SAGEM) found guilty in Paris by the Tribunal Correctionnel on September 5, 2012, of bribing Nigerian civil servants between 2000 and 2003 to win a 214m$ contract for 70 million ID cards,” the organization also stated.
It would be recalled that recently SERAP asked the government to “seek from the US government repatriation of forfeiture order on USD 401,931 in assets belonging to Diepreye Solomon Peter Alamieyeseigha.”
In the letter to Mr Adoke, SERAP stated that, “On June 28 2012, the US Department of Justice obtained the first forfeiture judgment ever issued under the new Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative against Mr Alamieyeseigha . The initiative is designed to “target and recover the proceeds of foreign official corruption that have been laundered into or through the United States.”
The group also said that, “the Nigerian government has not yet made a request for the repatriation of the stolen wealth. The failure to repatriate the recovered assets illustrates the government’s attitude to recovery of stolen assets.”
“Yet, being a state party to the UN Convention against Corruption Nigeria has a legal obligation to make a request for mutual legal assistance to the US for the return of the assets. The Convention describes asset recovery as its "fundamental principle" and requires state parties to "afford one another the widest measure of cooperation and assistance in this regard,” the group added.
“SERAP’s US Volunteer Counsel, Professor Alexander W. Sierck, is in high level discussion with US officials on the matter but without the Nigerian government taking the initiative the process will not go far,” the group also stated.
According to the group, “Repatriating the stolen assets would contribute to the fight against impunity of perpetrators as would-be corrupt suspects will know that they will never be allowed to keep and enjoy their ill-gotten wealth. The repatriation of the assets and other stolen wealth will also enhance the ability of the government to provide basic necessities of life such as healthcare, water, and electricity to millions of Nigerians who continue to face extreme poverty and misery.”
The group also urged the government to “use the repatriated assets to set up a trust fund for the benefit of the millions of vulnerable and disadvantaged Nigerians who are the victims of high level corruption. Any allocation and spending from such fund must be subject to anti-corruption safeguards so that recovered assets can be spent on public health or education projects, or to provide other basic necessities of life to millions of Nigerians living in poverty.”
“Setting up a trust fund for victims of corruption is entirely consistent with Nigeria’s international human rights obligations and commitments. In fact, Article 79 of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court provides for the establishment of separate trust funds into which criminal penalties and asset forfeiture proceeds are paid. These trust funds should benefit the victims of the crimes committed by the accused. They should serve as a model for the Nigerian government in the efforts to achieve a transparent and accountable spending of recovered stolen assets,” the group also argued.