Nigerian governors seek Supreme Court order to share N2tn loot; AGF counters, says utilization of recoveries solely guided by applicable legislation and international agreements

The governors are of the opinion that the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulation, 2019, which created the Federal Government of Nigeria Asset Recovery Account domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria and prescribed that all proceeds from the Final Forfeited Assets should be paid into the said account, is at variance with Nigerian constitution.

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Governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) have instituted a suit against the Government of the Nigerian Federation at the Supreme Court over recovered loot.

Some Nigerian governors

In a lawsuit filed at Nigeria’s Supreme Court, the Nigeria Governors’ Forum is seeking, others, to compel the Government of the Nigerian Federation  to account for sums in excess of N2 trillion (in cash and assets) so far recovered from looters and suspects since 2015. This is according to a report of the Nation newspaper.

The governors claim that between 2015 and now, the Government of the Nigerian Federation recovered about N1.8 trillion in cash and N450 billion worth of non-cash assets.

The recoveries, according to the governors, which ought to be paid into the Federation Account (FA), in line with constitutional requirements, were as diverted to the Consolidated Revenue Accounts (CRA) and other accounts not recognized by the constitution.

The NGF accused the central government of engaging in constitutional breaches with regard to the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulation, 2019.

The governors are of the opinion that the Asset Tracing, Recovery and Management Regulation, 2019, which created the Federal Government of Nigeria Asset Recovery Account domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria and prescribed that all proceeds from the Final Forfeited Assets should be paid into the said account, is at variance with Nigerian constitution.

In the suit marked: SCN/CV/393/2021, the governors also demanded that the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation, and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) be ordered to design modalities for distributing the recovered loot among the federating units.

Quoting Sections 162(1), 162 (10) and 80 of the Constitution and Section 2 of the Finance (Control and Management) Act, 1958, the governors argue that recovered funds qualified as revenue payable to the Federation Account, instead of the Consolidated Revenue Account of the Federal Government.

In a veiled reaction to the suit, the AGF argued that the States were on a wild goose chase, contending that the recovered loot, both domestic and international, is not governed by local laws.

The statement reads: “International recoveries are more or less governed by international conventions, negotiations, and agreement of parties. It is never a straightjacket application of local legislation.”

“It is, therefore, misleading to give the impression that such recoveries and usage of stolen funds and stashed abroad are provided for in the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Commission Act. One cannot situate rights and entitlements on looted funds and recovered assets with myopic and narrow understating of concepts of the application of local legislation.”

“The recovery of stolen assets and the subsequent uses to which these funds may be employed are subject to international agreements between Nigeria and the affected countries, thereby bringing the conflict of laws into contemplation.”

“Importantly also, these repatriated funds are based on cooperation and mutual assistance agreements, especially the United Nation Convention against Corruption and Implementation of the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) Principles on the Repatriation of Stolen Assets. The African Union and the ECOWAS Protocols on recovery of illicit funds are equally relevant when it comes to the role of Nigeria in relation to its other partners,” the AGF buttressed.

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