John Ameh, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, expressed his gratitude to Switzerland for returning funds stolen by corrupt government officials to Nigeria.
He said Nigeria was “deeply grateful to Switzerland for its support in resuscitating the economy, especially the return of illegally stolen funds” and in helping to intervene in the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East.
While receiving letter of credence from the Ambassador of Switzerland to Nigeria, Mr George Steiner, at the Presidential Villa.
“We are grateful to the Swiss government for allowing the illegally stolen funds to be brought back to Nigeria,” a statement by Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, quoted the President as saying.
In his response, the ambassador told Buhari that Switzerland would continue to support Nigeria, especially to end the conflict and the plight of Internally Displaced Persons in the North-East.
Steiner added, “We have strong and solid relations with Nigeria.
“It is an honour and privilege for us to contribute to issues of importance in the country.”
Recall that after a long period of engagement and negotiations between the two countries, Switzerland returned $322.5m (or N116.1bn) Abacha loot to Nigeria in December, 2017.
The money came with an interest of $1.5m.
The original amount stashed away by Abacha was $321m.
Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, had confirmed the receipt of the stolen money by Nigeria.
“We state that $322,515,931.83 (N116,105,735,458.80) was received into a special account in the Central Bank of Nigeria on December 18, 2017, from the Swiss government,” the Special Special Adviser, Media and Communications to the former minister, Mr Oluyinka Akintunde, had said at the time.
Also speaking on the returned funds, Assistant Director-General and Head, Global Cooperation Department, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Ambassador Pio Wennubst, said the money was indeed returned.
“We returned $321, including the interest. We returned all the amount, $322.5m including the interest for the time that the funds were blocked”, the official added.
Meanwhile, Buhari also received letter of credence from the Ambassador of Belgium to Nigeria, Dr Daniel Dargent. (Punch)