Human Rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has counseled President Muhammadu Buhari to reject the condition attached by the Swiss government before the return of $321 million Abacha loot to Nigeria.
Falana, in a letter to Buhari, stated that the conditions provided by the Swiss government were a violation of international laws.
“In the event that the government of Switzerland refuses to return the said sum of $321 million without any conditionality, the Federal Government should not hesitate to initiate legal proceedings for the recovery of the asset,” he noted.
“In the proposed suit, Nigeria should claim punitive and exemplary damages and interests from Switzerland for keeping the loot for over 20 years,” he added.
Pointing out that the Swiss government had included in the MoU a condition that required the World Bank to supervise the spending of the returned loot, Falana said “We note that grand corruption, money laundering and return of stolen assets have long become major issues of concern to the international community.
“We further note that Switzerland has acceded to all the relevant international treaties such as the United Nations Convention against Corruption for the return of assets.
“We believe that the conditionality imposed on Nigeria, which allows the World Bank to supervise the spending of returned assets by the Nigerian government, breaches international law principles and standards.
“In particular, Article 57 of the UN Convention against Corruption requires states parties to return assets ‘on the basis of a final judgment in the requesting state party.’ But in circumstances where there is no ‘final judgment,’ Article 57 allows for assets to be returned on the basis of ‘agreements or mutually acceptable arrangements, on a case-by-case basis, for the final disposal of confiscated property.’
“While the UN Convention against Corruption contains provisions for ‘special considerations’ when states parties are concluding agreements, this does not give the government of Switzerland the right to unilaterally impose conditions on Nigeria,” Mr. Falana said.
He added that the Article 57 suggested that Switzerland had no legal authority to impose conditions on Nigeria regarding the spending of recovered assets.
Falana also said the World Bank had failed to demonstrate sufficient level of transparency and accountability in its supervision of previously repatriated Abacha loot.