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SERAP Condemns $322m Abacha Loot Sharing Plan

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) says the plan by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to share the $350million (around N115 billion) loot recovered from former military ruler, late Gen. Sani Abacha among estimated 300,000 households a month, is “mis-targeted and would not bring any tangible benefits to the beneficiaries.”
SERAP said, “The authorities have a legal obligation under the UN Convention against Corruption to which Nigeria is a state party to make sure that the returned Abacha loot is properly and efficiently used, both from the viewpoint of using asset recovery as a tool of ensuring justice to victims of corruption and breaking the cycle of grand corruption.
“But the plan to share the loot among households is mere tokenism, and would neither have significant impact on poverty alleviation nor satisfy the twin objectives of justice and development,” SERAP said.
It would be recalled that the government announced, last week, that it would, starting from July, distribute the returned loot by the Swiss authorities to around 300,000 households, with each getting around $14 a month (around N5, 000.00).
Reacting in a statement by its Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, yesterday, SERAP said, “Rather than spending the loot to fund the National Social Safety Net Program (NAASP), Buhari should, within the framework of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), create a central recovery account/trust funds, with oversight mechanisms to ensure repatriated funds are transparently and accountably spent to invest in tangible projects that would improve access of those living in poverty to essential public services such as water, education and health.
“Distributing N5,000.00 to households would neither improve the socio-economic conditions of beneficiaries nor achieve the enduring value of a more transparent and robust system to manage recovered loot.”
The organization said, “The return of the Abacha loot is a chance for President Buhari to commit to the enforcement of the 2016 judgment by Justice Mohammed Idris, which ordered his government to publish and disclose the spending of recovered loot since 1999 by past and present governments till date, as well as details of projects on which the funds were spent; and to vigorously push the National Assembly to pass the Proceeds of Crime Bill.
“Buhari should make these happen before the next general elections, if he is to truly demonstrate his oft-repeated commitment to fight grand corruption,” SERAP noted.
The statement read in part: “The government should source funds elsewhere to continue its NAASP. The authorities should do the right thing with the returned loot and show Nigerians that they can properly and efficiently invest the funds in projects that would provide tangible benefits to the victims of corruption who are the socially and economically vulnerable sectors of the population.
“The authorities can use the loot to fund universal healthcare programme and a tuition assistance programme that would provide post-secondary/university education scholarships to young Nigerians from poor families and who would otherwise lack the resources to carry out their studies.
“In any case, distributing the returned loot to households in 19 states because the remaining 17 state governments have not yet put in place the appropriate platform through which to implement the NAASP is both unfair and discriminatory.
“The planned distribution is also vulnerable to abuse and corruption by state governors, who may push for the funds to be given to their supporters and thus used for parochial and political purposes. The proper and efficient spending of recovered funds is key for development and can support efforts to combat grand corruption.
“Spending returned looted funds offers an opportunity to right wrongs committed by corrupt officials, rebuild public trust, and invest in the development of communities most affected by grand corruption in the country to improve the prospects for meeting many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is important for the authorities to ameliorate the plight of communities that have borne the brunt of years of grand corruption by providing genuine opportunities for the socially and economically vulnerable sectors for personal development, and access to essential services as well as promoting the rule of law particularly by enforcing the judgment by Justice Idris.
“President Buhari should re-negotiate the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Swiss authorities in full consultation with the communities affected by grand corruption and to ensure that the returned loot is used to promote justice and development.
“Using asset recovery to promote justice and development is about letting those who abuse their power for personal gain foot the bill for projects that would improve access of victims of corruption to essential services and pursuing genuine poverty alleviation programmes.”
It would be recalled that President Buhari made the recovery of stolen assets a major part of his 2015 election campaign.
Switzerland is believed to have returned about $1billion to Nigeria over the last 10 years.
One of the Swiss officials involved in the negotiations with Nigeria, Roberto Balzaretti, reportedly said that the returned loot would be paid in instalments, and in small amounts from July under the supervision of the World Bank, which will also conduct regular audits.
Balzaretti also said that “if the first instalment is not properly accounted for, subsequent payment will be halted.”

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Ogoni Youths Give FG 14 Days To Fix East-West Road

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No fewer than 400 youths under the aegis of Ogoni Youth Federation (OYF), yesterday, staged a peaceful protest at the Eleme axis of the East-West Road, giving the Federal Government 14 days ultimatum to mobilize to site and fix the road or have economic activities in the area grounded.
The protesters, who carried various placards with inscriptions to press home their demands, trekked from Akpajo Junction to Refinery Junction in Eleme LGA, chanting solidarity songs to register their discontent over the neglect of the road.
Addressing newsmen during the protest, President General of the Ogoni Youth Federation, Comrade Legborsi Yaamabana, said it was regrettable that the road, which was a major route to the economic hub of the nation, has remained in a deplorable state, only becoming a death trap that has terminated the lives of innocent Ogonis.
Yaamabana, who described the mass action of the youths as a ‘warning protest’, said if the contractors handling the road were not immediately mobilized to site, then, the youths will have no option than to shut down all economic activities in the area.
He said, “we cannot continue to watch our people being killed on daily basis by tankers because of the poor state of Eleme axis of the east west road, we are calling on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency fix the road and save our people from untimely deaths as a result of the sorry state of the road, the only bridge on the road at Aleto has collapse but nothing is being done to avert the disasters faced by our people daily”.
Yaamabana also called on the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to constitute a substantive board for the Niger Delta Development Commission to address the development needs of the Niger Delta region, noting that the use of interim management for NDDC was “diversionary, self serving and not in the interest of the development of the Niger Delta region”.
The OYF president general also called on the Federal Government to exonerate Ken Saro-Wiwa and his compatriots who were extra-judicially murdered by the late Gen Sani Abacha military junta, and given post-humours honour as martyrs of democracy in Nigeria, while the ideals of justice they stood for should be upheld.
Also speaking, the immediate past secretary of the Ijaw Youth Council, Eastern Zone, Comrade James Tobin, who joined the protest in solidarity, decried the neglect of the East—West Road by the Federal Government, and called the immediate fixing of the road to save the teeming road users from untold pains and death.

By: Taneh Beemene

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Rising Prices Push 7m Nigerians Below Poverty Line -World Bank

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The World Bank has said that rising prices pushed about seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020.
This was contained in a press statement titled, ‘Critical reforms needed to reduce inflation and accelerate the recovery, says new World Bank report,’ released by the World Bank’s Senior External Affairs Officer of Nigeria, Mansir Nasir.
The press statement was released, yesterday, in line with the latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update.
It was acknowledged that the Federal Government “took measures to protect the economy against a much deeper recession” but it was recommended that certain policies should be set for a strong recovery.”
The statement read, “The NDU, titled ‘Resilience through Reforms,’ notes that in 2020, the Nigerian economy experienced a shallower contraction of -1.8 per cent than had been projected at the beginning of the pandemic (-3.2 per cent). Although the economy started to grow again, prices are increasing rapidly, severely impacting Nigerian households.
“As of April, 2021, the inflation rate was the highest in four years. Food prices accounted for over 60% of the total increase in inflation. Rising prices have pushed an estimated seven million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020 alone.”
Quoted in the statement, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Shubham Chaudhuri, identified some of the challenges faced by the country and recommended a way forward.
“Nigeria faces interlinked challenges in relation to inflation, limited job opportunities, and insecurity.
“While the government has made efforts to reduce the effect of these by advancing long-delayed policy reforms, it is clear that these reforms will have to be sustained and deepened for Nigeria to realise its development potential,” Chaudhuri said.
Also quoted is the World Bank Lead Economist for Nigeria and co-author of the NDU, Marco Hernandez, who also gave a recommendation.
“Given the urgency to reduce inflation amidst the pandemic, a policy consensus and expedite reform implementation on exchange-rate management, monetary policy, trade policy, fiscal policy, and social protection would help save lives, protect livelihoods, and ensure a faster and sustained recovery,” Hernandez said.

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Inflation Dips To 17.93% In May, NBS Confirms

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Nigeria’s inflation rate dropped to 17.93 per cent in May, 2021, from 18.12 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed this in its monthly Consumer Price Index report released, yesterday.
The drop in the headline inflation in May was the second consecutive month this year.
The report indicates that the consumer price index (CPI), which measures the inflation rate increased by 17.93 per cent (year-on-year) in May, 2021, which is 0.19 per cent points lower than the rate recorded in the preceding month.
According to NBS, food inflation dropped in the same month from 22.78 per cent recorded in April, 2021 to 22.28 per cent in May, 2021.
The report reads, ‘‘All items less farm produce which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce stood at 13.15 per cent in May, 2021, up by 0.41 per cent when compared with 12.74 per cent recorded in April, 2021.
‘‘The highest increases were recorded in prices of pharmaceutical products, garments, shoes and other footwear, hairdressing salons and personal grooming establishments, furniture and furnishing, carpet and other floor covering.
‘‘Others include, motor cars, Hospital services, fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment, cleaning, repair and hire of clothing.
“Other services include personal transport equipment, gas, household textile, and non-durable household goods,” the NBS added.

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