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$332.5m Abacha Loot: Group Initiates Tracking Mechanism to Forestall Diversion

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No fewer than 504 field monitors, 11 supervisors and 22 deputy supervisors drawn from the Nigerian Network on Stolen Asset (NNSA) and other Civil Society Organisations CSOs have begun the process of tracking Federal Government’s disbursement of the $332.5million Abacha loot, recently returned from the Swiss government.

The monitoring became necessary following speculations that the ruling All Progressive Congress may divert the funds for sponsorship of their campaigns in for next year’s general elections.

In the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme to the poorest of the poor in about 11 states, targeting 300,000 beneficiaries, approximately N1billion is believed to have been disbursed by the government, according to preliminary checks by the coalition of CSOs who are already on the field.

Executive Director of Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), David Ugolor, told reporters on Thursday, in Abuja that a total of sixteen states had beneficiaries from the August-September round of disbursement.

He said the group is working with six partners drawn from the six geopolitical zones of the country, adding that the returned loot followed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), signed by the Governments of Nigeria and Switzerland with active CSOs participation led by ANEEJ.

According to Ugolor, the exercise was not meant to witch-hunt the stakeholders but to gather relevant data whether the Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme to alleviate the suffering of the poorest of the poor, under the Government’s Social Investment Programme was actually gotten by the beneficiaries.

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari who recently hailed the Swiss government for returning the money had instructed that the funds be spent on the poorest of the poor Nigerians whose status were appraised and arrived at by the National Safety-Net Coordinating Office (NASSCO) under the supervision of the Office of the Vice President.

“We are monitoring the recovered $322.5 million Abacha loot through Transparency and Accountability in the recovery and Management of Looted Assets (MANTRA) project, which is being supported by the UKAID implementers of the Anti-Corruption in Nigeria (ACORN) Programme.

“The team covered the following geo-political zones/states: North West-Kano, Kaduna and Jigawa; North-Central-Nasarawa, Niger,Kwara and Benue, North East-Bauchi and Gombe; South-East-Anambra and South South – Cross River.

“On the field, we covered targeted households and preliminary reports from monitors across the 11 states showed clearly that the money disbursed in the first trench got to the poorest of the poor. I was amazed in a community in Nasarawa State where the beneficial even knew that the money they got in October was from the returned Abacha loot.

“We plan to continue the monitoring exercise in January when the next round of disbursement by the NTCO for November/December would have happened and we hope to cover states, local governments and wards not covered in this first exercise,” he noted.

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