France is set to repatriate $150 million stolen from Nigeria by former Head of State, late General Sani Abacha.
This was announced by presidential spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, following a meeting between President Bola Tinubu and Catherine Colonna, the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs.
Abacha ruled Nigeria from 1993 until his death in 1998. Transparency International had estimated that he stole up to $5 billion from the nation’s coffers during those years.
More than two decades after his death, Nigeria has continued to recover funds stolen by him during the five years he ruled the nation.
Transparency International puts the total amount recovered since the death of the late military dictator at $3.65 billion, as of 2022.
“Thank you for the good news on the return of Abacha loot,” Ngelale quoted President Tinubu as thanking France for the planned return of the loot.
“We appreciate your effective cooperation concerning the return of Nigeria’s money. It will be judiciously applied in attaining our development objectives,” the President added.
Tinubu emphasized the need for stronger collaboration on both political and economic fronts, and welcomed the growing cooperation between the two countries in areas of mutual interest, such as climate change, economic integration, education, and culture.
On the situation in Niger Republic, the President, who is also the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, said that Nigeria is monitoring the situation closely and working through diplomatic channels to avoid violence.
“Leadership is about responding to the needs of the people; their cries, and their frustrations. Nigeria shares a border with Niger across the expanse of seven Nigerian states, and most of these states are very populated. Therefore, I need to guide ECOWAS carefully and steadily so that we manage our anger carefully.
”We have a colleague and a democratically-elected leader, President Bazoum, being used as a human shield. If we are not careful, he and his family can be endangered.
”I am deploying all appropriate back-channel strategies to avoid bloodshed in Niger Republic. We recognize the wishes of our people; they do not want war, but that does not mean we can not take bold and decisive action,” the President affirmed.
President Tinubu said Nigeria will continue to galvanize international partners in the determined pursuit of a peaceful resolution to the situation in Niger Republic.
The French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs conveyed the goodwill of President Emmanuel Macron and expressed the readiness of France to expand mutually beneficial collaboration with Nigeria across multiple sectors.
She extended a formal invitation to President Bola Tinubu to attend the forthcoming Paris Peace Forum.
Colonna further applauded the conclusion of the lengthy legal process for the repatriation of the Abacha loot.
“It was a long process, but we are glad that it was concluded. Sometimes, justice may be slow, but this is a very good achievement,” she said.
Colonna added, “We support your efforts at ECOWAS. We are behind you because we believe that constitutional order is a treasure for all countries, and democracy must be a reality.”