Bagudu's $100m: Buhari presidency explains legal handicap

Bagudu

Gov. Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State

Atiku Bagudu, Kebbi State Governor: Must he be rewarded over Abacha loot?

Embarrassed by disclosure that it plans to handover $100million to Governor Atiku Bagudu, out of the $308m Abacha loot that the US wants to handover to Nigeria, the Buhari Presidency has made efforts to clear the air, unofficially.

The anonymous presidential source described media reports, based on court filings, that it will surrender 100 million dollars to Bagudu as false, untrue and disinformation.

The source, however, confirmed that the Buhari administration inherited litigation in which the defunct Obasanjo administration ceded 100million dollars to Bagudu, an agreement also being challenged by the US government.

”It is important that the fog of misinformation and disinformation on the position of the Buhari administration on the ongoing recovery from the United States of the Abacha loot be cleared.

”The administration is currently talking to the US government on the return of three pots or tranches of Abacha loot.

”First is the $308 million which has already been agreed to.

”Yes, there is a USD 100 million yet to be resolved, which the Obasanjo administration ceded to Sen. Abubakar Bagudu, an agreement that is being litigated because the US government itself does not recognize that Obasanjo-Bagudu settlement.

”Then, there is a third tranche of USD 60 which is also a subject of private litigation by the Abacha family.”

The source, therefore, maintained that, ”claims that the Buhari administration is planning to pay $100millon to Bagudu from the $308million on the home stretch are absolutely untrue.

”That money, being paid to the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority is going into the funding of ongoing work on Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the Second Niger Bridge and the Abuja-Kano expressway.”

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Bloomberg had reported on Thursday that the U.S.has opposed plans by the Buhari government to hand about $100 million the American authorities said was stolen by Sani Abacha to Governor Atiku Bagudu, quoting court filings.

According to Bloomberg, the disagreement may hamper future cooperation between the two nations to recover state money moved offshore by Abacha, who Transparency International estimates may have looted as much as $5 billion during his 1993-98 rule.

A commitment by Nigeria to transfer the funds to Bagudu appears to undermine Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s pledge to quell rampant graft in Nigeria, Bloomberg reported.

The U.S. Department of Justice accused Bagudu of being involved in corruption with Abacha.

The DoJ also contends that the Nigerian government is hindering U.S. efforts to recover allegedly laundered money it said it has traced to Bagudu.

Buhari’s administration in response said a 17-year-old agreement between Bagudu and the Obasanjo administration entitles Bagudu to the funds and prevents Nigeria from assisting the U.S., according to recent filings from the District Court for the District of Columbia in Washington.

In the case involving Bagudu, the U.S. in 2013 initiated a forfeiture action against a host of assets, including four investment portfolios held in London in trust for him and his family, according to the district court filings.

The DoJ said in a Feb. 3 statement that Bagudu, 58, was part of a network controlled by Abacha that “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria.”

Bagudu is the chairman of an influential body of governors representing the ruling All Progressives Congress.

Despite the forfeiture action being initiated following a Nigerian state request in 2012, Buhari’s government now says it can’t assist the U.S. because it’s bound by a settlement Bagudu reached with the administration of then-President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003, according to the court filings.