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Where has all the money gone?

News & Analysis

Where has all the money gone?

Retrieving the looted funds from far-flung destinations, and prosecuting those responsible, is essential to restoring trust in government. Osasu Obayiuwana reports.

While it is reported that about $37bn of stolen money has passed through the UK, as was discussed at the last anticorruption summit in London, it is extremely difficult to come up with an accurate figure. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the government body charged with combating graft, is yet to carry out a forensic review of the amount that has been looted from the exchequer.

But domestically, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, the current Emir of Kano and former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria said, in 2015, that $20bn of oil revenues were not properly accounted for by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

It is generally thought that Switzerland is a main destination for looted cash. There is evidence that some of the money was moved to, or through, the UK (and on to a network of British territory tax havens) and Liechtenstein. It is also suspected that a significant amount of the funds have also been moved to the Middle East – Dubai particularly, explaining why Nigeria’s President Buhari signed a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) with the government of the UAE, in order to facilitate the return of stolen money located there, even though the amount is unknown.

Already the US has handed over $450m; Switzerland has returned over $1 billion and there is an additional $700m that is on the verge of being repaid, subject to an agreement between the Swiss and Nigerian governments.

While Nigerians are extremely keen to see that looted funds are returned to the treasury, they are just as concerned with the government’s apparent lack of decisive fiscal actions to end the biting recession, which is impoverishing the majority of ordinary Nigerians.

Quantitative Easing is being called for, to reflate the economy, but the government is yet to use this tool. In the meantime, Nigeria’s credit rating has been reduced from B+ to B, by Standard and Poors.

And the Buhari government’s refusal to allow the Naira to fully float, still causing a twotier exchange rate, is not helping matters.

Members of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – battling with existential problems, caused by severe internal divisions – complain, of course, that their party members are the victims of a witch hunt. But they were in control of central government for 16 years, so it is no surprise that several of their members are being investigated by the EFCC.

The prevalent view is that the decision of the current administration to prosecute the high-profile people that find themselves in court, like Sambo Dasuki, the former National Security Advisor, is correct and necessary, to restore trust and integrity in government.


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