related US kicks as FG agrees to pay APC governor Bagudu $110m from Abacha Loot for his “peaceful enjoyment”

US kicks as FG agrees to pay APC governor Bagudu $110m from Abacha Loot for his “peaceful enjoyment”

The federal government agreed to pay governor of Kebbi state, Abubakar Bagudu, $110 million out of the recovered Abacha Loot for his “peaceful enjoyment”, according to a court document.

The payment was part of an agreement which the Buhari administration entered into with Bagudu in 2018 to allow the repatriation of $157.5 million laundered assets belonging to the governor, the court document said.

The money is to be paid into an account identified by one of his trusted assets immediately after the alleged loot was recovered to enable him and his associates to have a “peaceful enjoyment” of it, the document added.

Details of the contract were revealed by John Bates, district judge of the US district court of Columbia, in a memorandum opinion dated December 23.

Bloomberg broke the news of how the agreement was entered after Nigeria violated the terms of a 2003 contract between the federal government and the governor, which provided the latter with immunity of some sort.

The contract, which was signed by the administration of Olusegun Obasanjo and was backed by a UK court, allowed Nigeria to drop all civil, administrative and criminal claims against Bagudu in exchange for his return of $163 million funds alleged to have been laundered.

Bagudu, who chairs the forum of governors under the All Progressives Congress (APC), is a known associate of the late Sani Abacha and has on more than one occasion been accused of aiding the late leader to loot Nigeria.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) recently quoted US authorities as alleging that Abacha together with the governor and other individuals “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria and others,” though he never admitted any wrongdoing.

In 2012, when Nigeria attempted to recover laundered funds in the US, the governor dragged the federal government to a UK court, accusing it of breaching the earlier contract, according to the memorandum of opinion on civil action no. 13-1832 (JDB).

Bates recalled: “Abubakar (Bagudu) and the Blue Holding companies (one of his trusted assets)’ claim against Nigeria for breaching the 2003 Settlement Agreement resulted in a default judgement for damages against Nigeria.”

The district judge added that the breach resulted in the 2018 agreement which amends the earlier contract by “shift(ing) legal ownership of Abubakar Bagudu’s trust assets — including the Blue Holdings companies’ investment portfolios — to Nigeria”

It also stipulated that Nigeria would send $110 million to Bagudu, allowing him to have “peaceful enjoyment” of the money.

“Specifically, the 2018 Agreement amends the 2003 Settlement Agreement to say that Nigeria is now “the legal owner of the relevant Trust Assets, and that the parties will “use all reasonable endeavours” to obtain a “variation” of the UK court’s prohibition order so that the assets, which total €141 million ($157.5 million), may be transferred to Nigeria,” the court document quoted the judge as saying.

“The agreement further provides that once the assets are transferred, Nigeria will send €98.5 million ($110 million) of the defendant assets to an account identified by the Trustee of the Blue Family Trusts, allowing Abubakar Bagudu and his identified affiliates to have ‘peaceful enjoyment’ of the money.

“That payment of €98.5 million, according to the agreement, will satisfy Abubakar and the Blue Holding companies’ default judgement against Nigeria for breaching the 2003 Settlement Agreement.”

However, the United States through the DOJ is said to have opposed the terms, particularly the government’s plan to hand the money to the governor despite his indictment on the looted funds.

It is also feared that the disagreement between the two countries “may hamper future cooperation” in efforts to recover funds stolen by Abacha, according to Bloomberg.

Abubakar Malami, minister of justice and attorney-general of the federation, who has been overseeing the recovery of the looted funds on behalf of Nigeria, is reported to have signed the current agreement.

The minister is from Kebbi and has been rumoured to be eyeing the state governorship position at the end of Bagudu’s tenure.

The planned payment is yet another move that raises questions on the transparency of the Buhari administration’s recovery of funds looted by Abacha which Transparency International estimates could be up to $5 billion.

About $3.6 billion has so far been recovered out of that money.

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