Nigeria yesterday signed a string of agreements with the United Arab Emirates including that on the recovery and repatriation of stolen funds. The agreements were signed yesterday in Abu Dhabi and witnessed by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Crown Prince of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity Mr Femi Adesina, announced this in a statement yesterday. Adesina said that the agreements cover trade, finance and judicial matters. Nigeria’s Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (SAN) and his UAE counterpart, Sultan Bin Saeed Albadi signed the Judicial Agreements on Extradition, and Transfer of Sentenced Persons. They also cover Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters, as well as Commercial Matters, including the recovery and repatriation of stolen wealth. This aspect of the pact holds the potential to trap billions of dollars in bank deposits and choice property suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of fraud. The pact would enable such funds to be frozen pending the prosecution and conviction of offenders and the repatriation of what they stole in Nigeria. It could also block fraudulent transfer of funds to Dubai, which has lax laws unlike Europe and the United States, which have made it almost impossible for such transfers to take place. Sources told Daily Trust last night that the case of former Oceanic Band Managing Director Cecilia Ibru is a pointer to the enormous amount of money taken out to Dubai by Nigerians. One of the sources familiar with Mrs. Ibru’s case said she traded off about 100 properties in Dubai, among others, in a plea bargain to escape conviction and long prison sentence. The source said about 60 to 70 of those properties were shops as well as houses, he added. He also revealed that, “a lot of Nigerians have chains of houses, hotels, shops and many other properties mostly acquired through proceeds from crime. “Most of these are owned by political office holders, bankers, top civil servants and crooked businessmen. “The signing of the agreement is a welcome development, but it does not mean an outright retrieval of such property. “Nigeria has to go through the usual court processes before it gets back its stolen funds. “But the good thing is that these people are not like Europeans. They are authoritarian and the court processes won’t take long, but you have to prove the money and the properties are proceeds from crime. “However, the best cooperation under this agreement is for the UAE to help Nigeria with information regarding suspected stolen funds both in that country and elsewhere. Other agreements signed Nigeria’s Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun and the UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs Obaid Attayar also signed the Avoidance of Doble Taxation Agreement. Mr. Adesina said Nigeria’s Minister of Trade and Investment Mr Okechukwu Enelamah signed the Agreement on Trade Promotion and Protection with the UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs. Adesina said at a reception after the signing of the agreements, President Buhari reiterated his commitment to fighting corruption and restoring Nigeria’s dignity in the comity of nations. He said Buhari also urged all Islamic countries to support the fight against terrorism in Nigeria and denounce the atrocities of Boko Haram as un-Islamic and against the teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH). The presidential spokesman quoted Crown Prince Zayed Al Nahyan as saying that the relationship between Nigeria and the UAE would be strengthened by Buhari’s visit and the signing of the agreements. It would be recalled that Minister of Information and Culture Alhaji Lai Mohammed said on Monday in Abuja that 55 people stole a total of N1.34 trillion, in seven years. He revealed that 15 former governors allegedly stole 146.84 billion naira; four former ministers, 7 billion naira and 12 former federal and state officials, N14 billion. Eight people in the banking industry allegedly stole 524 billion while 11 businessmen allegedly stole 653 billion naira.