Ahead of the meeting of President Muhammadu Buhari with officials of the Obama government this week, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged President Obama to “back up his expressed commitment on stolen assets by taking thoughtful and aggressive steps to deal with the problem with the seriousness and intensity that has been previously lacking.”
In a statement Monday by SERAP’s Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni the organisation said that, “We welcome the commitment by President Obama to assist the Buhari government to track down billions of dollars in stolen assets from the country. However, greater efforts are required by the Obama government to follow through its commitment if it is to secure a measure of justice for Nigerian victims of corruption and money laundering.”
The organisation asked President Obama to “establish a Presidential Advisory Committee and facilitate a Congressional Hearing on stolen assets from Nigeria. These initiatives would be tremendously important in bringing renewed attention to repatriation of stolen assets to Nigeria.”
“Corruption, money laundering and systematic violations of human rights go hand in hand and that is why President Obama should do everything within his power to get to the bottom of the stolen assets from Nigeria kept in the US,” the organisation said.
“President Obama should also propose legislation to assist Nigerians in pursuing stolen assets in US banks and other institutions. Any such legislation should also require every bank and financial institution doing business in the US and their European affiliates to post on a central Internet site bank accounts of politically exposed persons and their families and friends from Nigeria,” the organisation said.
The organisation said that, “there is need for accountability for stolen funds, and there should not be a statute of limitations on stolen assets.” The Obama government should move quickly to resolve the issue of returning the assets to the country in an expeditious, just and fair manner. Unless this is done, the rare opportunity the Obama government now has to right the injustice aided and abetted by the US banks will be gone,” the organisation also said.
According to the organisation, “Recovering stolen assets from the US is a lingering issue that requires justice and fairness especially given the complicity of US banks and other institutions in corruption and money laundering in Nigeria, and the fact that stolen assets have contributed to the growth of US economy. Therefore, thoughtful and aggressive steps are needed if the Obama government is to change the asset recovery fatigue that characterised previous US administrations.”
“Indeed, the US government has an important responsibility to ensure not only that it returns stolen assets to the country but that it takes proactive steps to stop the stashing of such assets in its jurisdiction. When it comes to stolen assets from Nigeria the US government should use the same methodologies it adopts against terrorists using its banking system,” the organisation said.
“President Obama should also urge European governments and other financial centres keeping stolen assets from Nigeria to be more proactive in returning such assets through transparent procedures that are fair, just, and on the merits, without technical defenses. The Obama government can and should show the leadership in this field. If President Obama does not take the lead, the US and European financial centres will continue to serve as safe havens to stolen assets from Nigeria and elsewhere,” the organisation said