NIGERIA has traced its looted funds to some foreign banks, President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday.
Buhari has vowed to recover such funds from banks, financial institutions and countries in which payments for stolen crude oil have been deposited.
Buhari, who did not name the banks, spoke while receiving visiting United States Congressmen at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, Buhari acknowledged the cooperation his administration was getting from the international community in gathering intelligence for tracing and recovering stolen national resources.
He said: “We are getting cooperation from the international community, including information on ships that take crude oil from Nigeria and change direction or pour their contents into other ships mid-stream.
“Some monies were paid to individual accounts. We are identifying the financial institutions and countries that are involved.
“I have been assured that when we get all our documents together, the United States and other countries will treat our case with sympathy,’’ the President told the Congressmen, who were led by Representative Darrel Issa.
He also said that his administration would welcome more regular meetings of the Nigeria-United States Bi-National Commission.
President Buhari noted that the Commission could serve as a more useful platform for the promotion of bilateral trade and economic relations as well as joint cooperation in the war against terrorism.
Darrel assured President Buhari that the United States will support Nigeria against Boko Haram by providing training, intelligence and military platforms.
“We look forward to helping you in many ways to end the Boko Haram insurgency and the theft of crude oil in the Gulf of Guinea,’’ he said.
Shortly after meeting the Service Chiefs and Defence ministry officials yesterday, Congressman Darrel Issah told reporters that the U.S. government would soon relax or completely lift the restriction on military assistance imposed on Nigeria under the Leahy Law – a human rights law that prohibits the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defence from providing military assistance to foreign military units that violates human rights with impunity.
He said the development was occasioned by the policy of the new military command with regards to the ongoing military operations in the country.
“There were a number of things that were discussed at the meeting, but basically the need for additional technical support, including overhead surveillance. This was discussed because it is important in the fight against Boko Haram.
“This is because of the trust in the new regime which has begun the process of ensuring that the military’s professionalism in the battle field is made in a way that we all can be confident that the rule of law is followed.
“Following this development, we have begun the process of lifting restriction under the Leahy Law but the vast majority of the support U.S. provides will be given regardless of the restrictions,’’ he said.
Issah said the U.S. would provide other forms of support that would not only boost the military’s capabilities but would also create the environment to rebuild devastated communities.
He said the U.S., through its agencies in Nigeria, would help rebuild and rehabilitate communities and victims of insurgency in the Northeast.
“We are looking forward to working with the President and the military to rebuild the confidence of the people of Nigeria in the professionalism of the military.
“To make the military something that the people will rely on as the nation tries to clear insurgents and protect the civilians; that is important to the new president of Nigeria, our president and it is also important to the congress.
“But we are looking forward to a great difference in the relationship, a proactive relationship and one in which we can provide a greater level of support,’’ he said.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Mr Ismaila Aliyu, said the visit was a sign of the renewed confidence in Nigeria’s military on the global scene.
He said Nigeria now enjoyed a greater level of confidence and trust in the international community, stressing that it would impact positively on the nation’s efforts in repositioning its economy.
“The U.S. believes in Nigeria, they have trust and confidence in Nigeria, that is why they are here.
“On the issue of human rights, the U.S. is pleased with what we have been doing in recent times to address the gaps that may have existed in the past.
“This visit is a follow-up to Mr President’s visit to the U.S., we have said it and will continue to state that the visit was of great benefit to Nigeria, it has rekindled confidence in the relations between the two countries,’’ he said.
Issah led a delegation from the U.S. congress Judicial Committee to the meeting with Nigeria’s top ranking defence officials.
Other issues that dominated discussions between officials of the two countries include justice reforms and support for devastated communities, among others.
The meeting is believed to be one of the gains of President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent visit to the U.S.