President Muhammadu Buhari says his government is in talks with that of the United States on how to repatriate $500m looted fund stashed in banks worldwide.
The president disclosed this while addressing journalists after his meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House.
According to him, the attorneys-general of both countries will work together to ensure the return of the fund.
“Our two governments have put the machinery in place for their respective Attorneys-General to collaborate in ensuring the return to Nigeria of over five hundred million United States Dollars ($500) of looted funds siphoned away in banks around the world,” Buhari said.
“In this connection, we congratulated the US government on launching a Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative which was spearheaded by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering. We hoped that we could continue to count on US support in this area.”
Abubakar Malami, attorney-general of the federation (AGF), who alongside Okechukwu Enelamah and Geoffrey Onyeama, ministers of industry, trade and investment, and foreign affairs attended the business meeting Buhari had with CEOs of Nigeria and US businesses, said the roadmap will be drawn Tuesday afternoon.
Malami said Trump’s commitment towards assets recovery and reparation of looted funds was also demonstrated during the meeting.
“There was a clear political goodwill and commitment that has now been given by the respective governments in terms of working together towards the repatriation of the looted funds and assets,” Malami said.
“To that extent, there has been clear directives for both attorney generals to meet and have a road map for the repatriation of the assets. That meeting is now slated for tomorrow (Tuesday) 3pm to work on the repatriation of over $500 million which is ready for repatriation subject to clearing the bureaucratic bottlenecks.”
On whether the $500m is the first tranche or there is possibility of more trailing, the AGF said “the numbers keep changing with time”.
He also did not give specifics on the timeline the money would be repatriated.
“One thing I can tell you is that investigation is ongoing and the numbers keeps changing with time,” he said.
“But as far as the immediate negotiations with US is concern it is a figure between $500 million and above. That is what is on the table immediately for discussions.
“I can’t state categorically what we are looking at in timeline sense but the truth is we are looking at the shortest practicable time.
“The fact that there is political commitment by the two presidents, is a clear demonstration of the fact that the possibility of having the money repatriated within the shortest possible time cannot be ruled out.”
Geoffrey Onyeama, minister of foreign affairs, said Trump’s proposed visit to Nigeria will take a year to plan.
Trump had told Buhari that he would like to visit Nigeria, a country he described as “amazing’’.
“I would very much like to visit Nigeria. It is an amazing country and in certain ways, I hear from the standpoint of the beauty of a country. There is no country more beautiful,” Trump had said on Monday.
However, Onyeama said: “If the programmers of the two presidents are very very intensive, it usually takes anything up to a year to prepare for invitation at that kind of level before they actually take place”.
“Of course in Nigeria you know we have elections coming up and a very very busy schedule as that of President Trump. May be sometime next year we could envisage something like that.”