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$400m Abacha loot: FG To pay Swiss bank $79m commission

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The Federal Government may have agreed to pay the Government of Switzerland $79m (N25.2bn) as part of conditions for the repatriation of almost $400m (N128bn) recovered from the family of the late military ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha.

The Chairman of the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraj, said this during a seminar to commemorate the 2016 International Anti-Corruption Day in Abuja on Friday.

The event was jointly organised by Nigerian anti-corruption agencies, the European Union, the United States and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and had in attendance senior diplomats and politicians.

It will be recalled that the Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, Eric Mayoraz, had said in July that his country would return $321m out of the Abacha loot to Nigeria.

However, Suraj, who was a member of a panel of discussants, said the original figure that was meant to be returned to Nigeria was about $400m.

He said the Nigerian Government had secretly agreed to forfeit $79m as part of negotiations.

Suraj said this was disgraceful as the Swiss Government was meant to pay Nigeria an interest instead of dictating the terms of agreement.

He said, “Unfortunately, the government goes to beg countries to get our money back rather than making demands, we appeal for the money and beg them to return it. We are fed with half information such that we even assume that we actually recover the amount stolen.

“I had a very funny experience and it is still ongoing. The $321m that the Swiss Government is meant to return to Nigeria, we discovered three weeks ago that the original money was about $400m. The legal process in Switzerland actually charged the Nigerian Government about $79m and that is why we are receiving $321m.

“The $321m is now to be returned to Nigeria with the condition that the World Bank will monitor how the funds will be spent. I cannot imagine anything more insulting.”

Attempts to speak with the spokesperson for the Swiss Embassy, Mr. Pascal Holliger, proved abortive as telephone calls were not responded to while he had yet to respond to a text message as of press time.

Also, an inquiry sent to the Office of the Attorney-General in Switzerland by email had yet to be responded to as of press time.

However, it will be recalled that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Geoffrey Onyeama, had said in June that the government of former President Olusegun Obasanjo had paid the Swiss Government over $100m as commission for the return of Abacha’s loot.

He had said, “If you remember the Abacha loot in Switzerland at the time, Obasanjo’s government had to finally agree to give them 10 per cent of the amount. This was about $100m and so they returned $900m to Nigeria.

“If they (Swiss Government) had not agreed and said they wanted to keep the whole money, it would have been very difficult for us and that is why the anti-corruption summit and the initiative of President Muhammadu Buhari is really focused on these western countries to remove some of those barriers and lengthy procedures that are in place and make it possible for these people to delay (the payment).”

Meanwhile, the Minister of Mines and Steel Development, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has described fighting corruption as a very expensive task.

He maintained that there was a need for the government to focus on crime prevention rather than crime fighting.

Fayemi, who spoke on the theme, ‘Corruption: An Impediment to the Sustainable Development Goals, said Buhari, administration would promote transparency.

The Country Representative of the UNODC, Cristina Albertin, lamented the high level of corruption in Nigeria and other developing nations.

She said 37 per cent of Nigeria’s gross domestic product would be lost by 2030 if corruption wasn’t curbed.

A spokesperson for the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs, Noemie Charton, told our correspondent in an email that he would find out the situation.

The message read, “Thank you for your query. I have forwarded it to our colleagues in charge, and will get back to you in the course of next week.”

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Army withholds salaries of 45 soldiers in Borno

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Authorities of the 7 Division Nigerian Army, Maiduguri, have withheld the salaries of 45 soldiers, according to sources.

The soldiers, who were among the 149 troops of the 153 Task Force Battalion withdrawn from Marte, Borno State, after spending three years in counterinsurgency operations, were accused of for abandoning their duty posts.

The battalion came under attack on three occasions during which several soldiers were killed while a range of weapons, equipment and vehicles were either carted away or destroyed.

The battalion was overhauled after the last attack in February.

A source said necessary changes were made and troops who served with the battalion were moved to different formations in Maiduguri before a new deployment was made.

“Some of the soldiers who were not seen at their new units were believed to have gone on AWOL (Absence Without Leave). Their salaries accounts were not credited in April,” he said.

But one of the affected soldiers said the allegation of desertion against them was untrue.

“We were not given our salaries and when we asked our supervisors in the 7 Division, we were shocked to hear that we had forfeited all our entitlements over desertion.”

Attempts to get the response of army authorities were not successful.

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EFCC goes after top officials of PDP over N10bn scandal

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The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) has invited officials of People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for questioning over alleged criminal conspiracy, abuse of office, diversion of funds and fraud.

This is coming barely a month after a chieftain in the PDP, Kazeem Afegbua, petitioned the anti-graft agency to scrutinise the Secondus-led National Working Committee on financial misappropriation.

In the letter of invitation dated May 17, 2021, and addressed to the Prince Uche Secondus, the EFCC said the need to obtain certain clarification from the party has become imperative.

The agency, however, requested the party’s National chairman to release the National Auditor, National Organising Secretary and Director of Finance to report at the EFCC headquarters from May 19th to 21st 2021.

The agency also requested the national officers to honor the invitation with relevant documents relating to sole of forms into the party’s elective positions from January 2017 to date.

Kazeem had in his petition alleged that much of the financial transactions of the PDP under Prince Uche Secondus has been shrouded in mystery, accusing the leadership of deliberate attempt to shortchange the party in the build up to the 2023 general elections.

However, Secondus had since denied the allegation and filed a N1 billion suit against the petitioner, Kazeem Afegbua.

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Nigeria’s drug control agency approves new COVID-19 vaccine

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The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has granted approval for the conditional emergency use of Janssen COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria.

Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is the third vaccine recommended for administration in the country.

The director-general of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojiola Adeyeye, in a statement on Tuesday, said information on the vaccine shows it met the criteria for efficacy, safety and quality.

She said, “The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine is administered as a single dose. Results from a clinical trial involving people in the United States, South Africa and Latin American countries found that Janssen COVID-19 vaccine was effective at preventing COVID-19 in people from 18 years of age.

“The Phase III clinical trial involved over 44,000 people. Half received a single dose of the vaccine and half were given placebo (a dummy injection). People did not know if they had been given Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine or placebo.

According to her, the trial showed a 67 per cent reduction in the number of symptomatic COVID-19 cases after two weeks in people who received Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine.

The most commonly reported side effects were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea. Most of these side effects were mild to moderate in severity and lasted 1-2 days.

On the vaccine safety, Adeyeye said NAFDAC, in line with its pharmacovigilance and safety monitoring plan for COVID-19 vaccines, will closely monitor and subject the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to several activities that apply specifically to COVID-19 vaccines.

The AstraZeneca vaccine which Nigeria has been giving out has garnered many sceptics internationally after some recipients of the vaccine died.

At least 16 countries including Germany, France and Sweden have suspended the use of AstraZeneca, which put on the Nigerian government to suspend it.

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