President Muhammadu Buhari and President Donald Trump of the United States of America have approved for the Attorney Generals of both countries to draw out a clear roadmap on how to repatriate $500 million looted funds to Nigeria. Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami, who briefed journalists in Washington on the sideline of Presidents Buhari and Trump’s meeting, said the roadmap would be drawn up at the end of yesterday’s meeting
The minister was joined by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah and his Foreign Affairs counterpart, Geoffrey Onyeama, at the end of a business meeting between President Buhari and Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of Nigeria and US businesses. The AGF noted that three key remarks from President
Trump consolidated on the general overview of what transpired between the two presidents.
According to him, Trump’s acknowledgement of Buhari as a real leader, his acknowledgement that the administration has, indeed, succeeded in cutting down corruption and the payment of N135 million compensation to victims of the Apo Six killed in 2013, was an indication that the meeting was a fruitful one.
Malami also said Trump’s commitment towards assets recovery and reparation of looted funds was also demonstrated during the meeting.
According to him: “There was a clear political goodwill and commitment that has now been given by the respective governments in terms of working together towards the repatriation of the looted funds and assets.
“To that extent, there have been clear directives for both attorney generals to meet and have a roadmap for the repatriation of the assets. That meeting is now slated for tomorrow (Tuesday) 3pm to work on the repatriation of over $500 million, which is ready for repatriation, subject to clearing the bureaucratic bottlenecks.”
Speaking on whether the $500 million is the first tranche or there is the possibility of more trailing, the AGF said: “One thing I can tell you is that investigation is ongoing and the numbers keep changing with time. But as far as the immediate negotiations with the US are concerned, it is a figure between $500 million and above. That is what is on the table immediately for discussions.”
Malami, who was, however, silent on the timeline the money would be repatriated said: “I can’t state categorically what we are looking at in timeline sense, but the truth is we are looking at the shortest practicable time. The fact that there is a political commitment by the two presidents is a clear demonstration of the fact that the possibility of having the money repatriated within the shortest possible time cannot be ruled out.”
He said that another subject where Buhari’s administration got commendations was in the area of human rights record in the country.
The AGF said: “President Buhari has stated that this is the first time that Nigeria is paying compensation for victims of human rights violation.
“Recall the Apo Six incident which happened in 2013, where security agents were said to have committed human rights violations by the unjustified killings of six people.
“In April this year, the Federal Government has indeed paid N135 million to the victims of the human rights violation. That has further been consolidated by the fact that two of the police officers that were involved in the perpetration of the murder of the Apo six were sentenced to death through judiciary process.
“The payment was recommended by Human Rights Commission. So, it is a clear demonstration of the respect for the Human Rights Commission and its decision; two, respect for human rights against the background that for the first time, the Federal Government is paying compensation and that also those that perpetrated the unwholesome act were, indeed, sentenced by a judicial process.”
On a number of beneficiaries of Apo Six compensation, Malami said, “The beneficiaries are eight and not six. The Apo Six was press coinage arising from the immediate casualties as at the time of the incident, but then number increased to eight.”
Onyeama, speaking on a possible Trump visit to Nigeria, said that with Nigeria’s upcoming elections and the busy schedules of both Presidents, it would take at least, one year for such visit to be planned.
Trump had indicated interest in visiting Nigeria, describing it as an amazing country, adding that there is no country more beautiful.
Onyeama said: “Regarding the invitation, well, if the programmes of the two presidents are very, very, intensive, it usually takes anything up to a year to prepare for an invitation at that kind of level before they actually take place. Of course, in Nigeria, you know we have elections coming up and a very, very, busy schedule as that of President Trump, maybe, sometime next year, we could envisage something like that.”
Enelamah, on the quantum of investment expected, said: “First, on Friday, the government signed an investment agreement with General Electric (GE), on the railway concessions. The agreement is going to be in two phases. The first phase is to get the job rolling that will involve over $40 million investment that will get some of the existing rail tracks working, with the right coaches and carriages to get some of the cargo and passengers going. And then, there is the big one, which is the $2 billion investment to revamp our existing rail and making sure it is used for cargo and transport. That is the narrow gauge and the existing rails we have in addition to all the new ones we have. So, that is just one investment from one company.
“Some of the companies Mr President met with were John Deere that is looking to assemble and supply tractors in Nigeria. At its full expression, it is expected to exceed 10,000 tractors. Initially, it’s going to be in hundreds, but there is no question that it fits this model of trying to invest in Nigeria, train people, employ people and help the agriculture value chain in terms of its mechanization, automation and all the good things that comes from a company like John Deere.
“Other companies like Cotava that are basically into Agric business, which is being turned into a multi-million dollar business. Another company called Continental Grains, Bongi, there is Flour Mills, who are all looking to make serious investments in Nigeria. Our own companies were there as well, including the Dangote Group.
“All these companies are committed to making a serious investment in Nigeria that runs into hundreds of millions of dollars and in aggregate, will become billions of dollars just like the GE one.”
The Industry, Trade and Investment Minister said that Buhari also met with Boeing, Procter and Gamble, Chevron and so many others.
He said: “For instance, Boeing is very interested in supporting the aviation sector. They plan to roll out something that will increase the availability of flights from Nigeria. Procter and Gamble are looking to expand its investment in Nigeria. Chevron, as you know, is the oil company. It also commended Nigeria on how they have succeeded in sorting out the historical problem with cash calls and so on.
“So, in terms of investment and commitment, there is every reason to be positive. It is certainly in the billions of dollars. We need to sharpen our pencils and take it on.”
On what Trump meant by Agric produce coming to Nigeria, Enelamah said: “What is to take away is that there is a lot of scope for collaboration between Nigeria and the US. Our view is that the major scope is that the fact you have these Agric businesses whether they are in equipment like John Deere or are in crops and seeds and enhancement like Coteva and Bongi or Continental grains, that can help improve production in Nigeria.
“So, most of them will certainly function there. Clearly, when it comes to trade between the two countries, there will always be scope for trade. But right now, when you include oil, it will mean Nigeria exporting more to the US. But when you remove oil, the US is actually exporting more to Nigeria. I think the important thing is that the balance of trade should grow on both sides and it should be win-win. And that is exactly what will happen based on what we will see today,” he added. (New Telegraph)