ABUJA, Nigeria – France has pledged to repatriate $150 million to Nigeria, funds formerly siphoned by General Sani Abacha, the country’s ex-military head of state who seized power in 1993 till 1998 when he died suddenly.
Catherine Colonna, the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, affirmed the decision during her visit to Abuja, the nation’s capital, on Friday, November 3, 2023.
The announcement came amidst her discussions with Nigerian officials, including the recently inaugurated President Bola Tinubu.
Colonna stated that the decision was made in response to a request from Nigeria’s Ministry of Justice and was also in alignment with the United States Administration’s stance.
The return of these funds marks a continuation of Nigeria’s efforts to recover the vast amounts embezzled during Abacha’s rule in the 1990s.
The move by France, following the seizure of the assets in 2021, underscores the ongoing international cooperation in combating corruption and repatriating stolen assets.
Colonna highlighted that while France does not seek to oversee the allocation of these funds, their use is tied to an agreement with Abacha’s family and the intention is for them to be channeled into developmental projects that will benefit the Nigerian populace.
The specifics of these projects are to be deliberated between the French and Nigerian authorities, aligning with the Nigerian government’s priorities.
Transparency International has historically categorized Abacha as one of the most corrupt leaders, with allegations of stealing billions from Nigeria’s coffers, primarily from the nation’s oil wealth.
The news was warmly received by President Tinubu, who expressed gratitude for France’s cooperation.
Presidential spokesperson Ajuri Ngelale relayed the president’s statement, emphasizing the commitment to apply the recovered assets to the country’s developmental goals responsibly.
This move is not just a victory for Nigeria’s fight against corruption but also a significant stride towards fostering international collaboration in the pursuit of justice and the restitution of public wealth.