The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has explained how the Olusegun Obasanjo administration spent the loot recovered from the late maxiumn dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha.
She said that contrary to reports that the sum of $2bn was recovered from Abacha’s loot, only $500m was recovered under her watch when she was first made finance minister.
The minister made the clarification amidst conflicting figures about the actual amount recovered.
For instance, speaking in London in November 2006, the pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, had said that “Abacha took over $6bn from Nigeria,” and that $2bn of the loot had been recovered.
Ribadu repeated the same figure in the same month during the 12th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Guatemela.
Three months ago, Ribadu repeated the same claim in Dakar at the 2nd Annual High Level Dialogue on Governance and Democracy in Africa.
As Minister of Finance in the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, Okonjo-Iweala, in 2005 – a year before Ribadu made his claim – at a news conference in Switzerland reportedly said that Nigeria had recovered about $2bn total of asset from Abacha.
But reacting to the conflicting claims on the stolen money, the minister who spoke through her Special Adviser Communication, Mr. Paul Nwabuikwu, said that the recovered $500m under her watch was verified and used in a structured manner for developmental projects.Nwabuikwu said, “The minister did not say only $500m was recovered as the entire loot of Abacha. What she actually said was that under her watch when she was in government as a minister, it was that amount that was recovered. And that money was used in a structured way to carry out some programmes of government.
“You will recall that at a point, she left government to return after some years and she cannot be held accountable for whatever happens when she was not in office.
“So the bottom line is that only $500m was the amount recovered when she was in government.”
On how the funds were utilised, the minister through her special adviser said part of the recovered loot was used to fund projects in the power, health, works, health, education and water sectors.
The minister supported her claims with a report jointly prepared by the World Bank and Ministry of Finance – a copy of which was made available to our correspondent,
According to the document, the sum of N21.70bn was spent on power (rural electrification and power generation); N18.6bn on works (priority economic roads); and N10.83bn on health (primary health care and vaccination programme).
Also, N7.74bn was utilised on basic and secondary school education (primary schools, junior secondary schools and federal government colleges) and N6.20bn on water (potable water and rural irrigation).