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govt sets conditions for publishing names of looters

Abubakar-Malami

The Buhari administration on Wednesday identified some issues that must be clarified before details of suspected looters of the country’s treasury could be disclosed.

Asked about the administration’s commitment to publishing names of those from whom various amounts were recovered since the administration came onboard two years ago, Attorney-General Abubakar Malami said the government remained committed to unmasking such individuals, but would only do so after all legal concerns had been addressed.

“The disclosure will definitely be made, but it is contingent on reconciliation of associated considerations as they relate to subjudice principles,” Mr. Malami told State House reporters shortly after Federal Executive Council meeting.

Other issues “as they relate to reconciliation and confirmation of figures,” must also be addressed, Mr. Malami said.

Once the stated issues have been resolved, the government will commence piecemeal disclosure of the names of the suspects, Mr. Malami added.

The comments came hours after a court in Lagos ordered the federal government to “immediately” publish personal details of those that law enforcement agencies have recovered funds from since President Muhammadu Buhari launched his anti-corruption war shortly after assuming office.

“The Federal Government has a legally binding obligation to tell Nigerians the names of all suspected looters of the public treasury past and present,” the presiding judge, Hadiza Shagari, said in suit number: FHC/CS/964/2016.

The order was secured by Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, following a Freedom of Information suit.

The group said it filed the suit after the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, turned down its FoI requests for details of those that returned cash and other assets to federal coffers.

Details of the recoveries published June 2016 showed that the Nigerian government retrieved total cash amount of N78,325,354,631.82, $185,119,584.61, £3,508,355.46 and €11, 250 between May 29, 2015 and May 25, 2016.

Also released were recoveries under interim forfeiture, which were a combination of cash and assets, during the same period: N126,563,481,095.43, $9,090,243,920.15, £2,484,447.55 and €303,399.17.

Anticipated repatriation from foreign countries totaled: $321,316,726.1, £6,900,000 and €11,826.11.

The government also announced that 239 non-cash recoveries were made during the one-year period. The non-cash recoveries are – farmlands, plots of land, uncompleted buildings, completed buildings, vehicles and maritime vessels, the ministry said.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had announced other major recoveries since the publication, including more than $9 million recovered from Andrew Yakubu, a former head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

The disclosure followed months of intense criticism and pressure the citizens who accused the president of failing to fulfil his promise to disclose names of suspects and their loot.

In his response to State House correspondents, Mr. Malami said the government subscribes to the spirit of Freedom of Information Act, and has the “responsibility” to obey requests arising from it.

“But we have to take into account and consideration, the fact that there are some factors that have to be considered as far as making these disclosures are concerned,” Mr. Malami insisted

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