For allegedly helping their father plunder Nigeria of an estimated $5
billion in the 1990s, Mohammed and Abba Abacha, and other relatives of
the late dictator, Sani Abacha, have been rewarded by the Nigerian
A secret deal between the government and the Abachas, wants the family
to return part of the loot, in exchange for perpetual immunity against
The deal, kept classified for months, was personally approved by
President Goodluck Jonathan in July 2014, and jointly authored by the
Attorney General, Mohammed Adoke.
The terms of the agreement, obtained by PREMIUM TIMES in March,
have alarmed anti-corruption activists.
“The agreement is (also) a tragic triumph of impunity,” said The Berne
Declaration, a Swiss nongovernmental organization, which for years has
monitored efforts by the Nigerian government to recover hundreds of
millions of dollars stashed by the former military ruler, and his family,
in bank accounts across Europe, and America.
The agreement closes criminal proceedings for the plundering of the
Nigerian treasury against the perpetrators and their accomplices, with the
result that they go unpunished.
Foreign banks involved in the heist have also not been convicted of
Worse, Swiss lawyers and other attorneys who helped facilitate the so-
called out-of-court settlement, will pocket fees up to five per cent of all
monies recovered from the family from banks in Switzerland and other
countries. The government expressly agreed to pay one of the attorneys
“This is all the more troubling because many of the banks involved have
not been convicted of money laundering. It is equally incomprehensible
that the Swiss lawyers involved may pocket up to 7 percent of the sum
for their services, as this money belongs to the Nigerian population,”
Berne Declaration said.
The base of the agreement is for the Abacha family to cooperate with
federal authorities to have the stolen funds repatriated, in exchange for
On receipt of the assets, Nigeria will “end any and all legal proceedings
and investigations against the settling parties (referring to the Abacha
The government will “recognise” properties owned by the family in
Nigeria, the agreement says.
“The FRN (Federal Republic of Nigeria) will withdraw any and all civil
proceedings against the settling parties,” one clause in the agreement
Another clause says, “The FRN will end, without any finding of liability
or guilt, any and all proceedings of whatever kind including criminal,
civil or administrative proceedings contemplated or pending in any court
in Nigeria (including in relation to forfeiture and or restraint) relating to
or arising out of any investigations into the resolved matter, …”.
“The FRN will provide to any government, authority or organisation,
where necessary, information, clearance or such other documentation or
support as may be required by any or all of the Settling Parties to ensure
and guarantee unrestricted movement in and out of Nigeria or in any
other state or country,” another clause adds.
As Nigeria’s military leader between 1993 and 1998, Mr. Abacha stashed
away billions of dollars of public funds in various accounts abroad.
Transparency International estimates $5 billion was stolen.
The money include those in three accounts at HSBC Bank Plc, one in
Standard Bank Plc in England; five accounts in Cítibank Private Bank of
London; one account in Deutsche Bank International Ltd, in Jersey,
United States; three accounts in Banque SBA SA and one in Standard
Alliance Corporation in France.
There are also funds in nine accounts in Luxemburg and Liechtenstein
totaling about $248.64 million and Euros179.14 million, which was
transferred to the Bank for International Settlements (BI) in 2014.
In June 2014, Liechtenstein agreed to return $227m, while the U.S. froze
some $458m hidden by Abacha in bank accounts.
Switzerland had earlier returned some $700m. By March 2015, the
country agreed to return a further $380m.
The recovery of the money had been blocked by legal action brought by
companies linked to members of the Abacha family.
The government’s initial charges against Abacha’s oldest son,
Mohammed Abacha, was for unlawfully receiving government money
from his father.
The Nigerian government agreed to the secret deal as a sort of plea
bargain, to have the Abacha family drop its case, and allow the money to
Geneva prosecutors had also closed their own case against the Abacha.
Anti-corruption activists argue that granting immunity to those who
helped in stealing the country blind will only embolden others to do
They also question why the Nigerian government failed to lay clearly as
part of the agreement how recovered money will be applied from the
benefit of Nigerians.
“The agreement between Nigeria and the Abacha family, approved by the
Public Prosecutor in Geneva, does not contain a single provision to
ensure that the returned money will be of benefit to the Nigerian people
from whom it was stolen in the nineties and who continue to suffer
endemic corruption,” Bernes Declaration said.
“The entire arrangement is questionable,” said David Ugolor of the
Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice. “We must let
Switzerland see the need to suspend further decision on the return of the
money stolen by Abacha until all the terms are clearly established in a
manner that would really benefit Nigerians.”
Anchored by Attorney General Adoke, the agreement compels the
Federal Government to withdraw all pending cases against any member
of the Abacha family at home and abroad, while all organs of
government, including the National Assembly, were barred from asking
questions with the intention of recovering the stolen wealth.
Also, the deal forbids the government from taking any action to limit the
constitutional rights, including freedom of movement of the Abachas
within and outside Nigeria and right to property, in connection with the
Mohammed and Abba Abacha represented the Abacha family in the
negotiations, which also involved international brokers.
Mr. Adoke represented Nigeria on the instructions of President Jonathan.
“I hereby confirm that the Honourable Attorney General of the
Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke SAN CFR,
has full authority to contract in that capacity in relation to the
Repatriation Agreement between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and
Alhaji Mohammed Sani Abacha and Alhaji Abba Abacha,” the president
As part of the agreement, Nigeria will pay four per cent of the sums
recovered and repatriated to Nigeria to Swiss agent, Enrico Monfrini of
Monfrini, Crettol & Associe, which also entitled to another $5 million
for litigation expenses.
Another 2.8 percent of the recovered or repatriated sum was agreed to be
paid Christian Luscher of CMS Von Erlach Poncet Ltd (subject to a cap
of $28million), while the Abacha are expected to settle the legal fees of
their appointed agent, Nicola Boulton, of Byrne and Partners of London.