The United Kingdom is blocking the plan of the Nigerian government to pay $110 million believed to be a part of funds looted by the late Sani Abacha to Abubakar Bagudu, governor of Kebbi state.
According to Bloomberg, the governments of Nigeria, the UK and the US, are in a dispute over investment portfolios worth 141 million euros ($155 million) linked to Abacha and held in trust for Bagudu and his family.
Nigeria is seeking the approval of a UK court to take ownership of the assets before returning 70% of the proceeds to Bagudu under the terms of a 2018 deal.
Bloomberg reported that the UK government’s National Crime Agency “is opposing the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s application,” according to a motion filed by Bagudu’s brother, Ibrahim, to the district court for the district of Columbia in the US capital on March 30.
The US Department of Justice said in February that its Nigerian counterpart is hindering its efforts to recover the allegedly laundered money from the UK.
The US department of Justice is accusing Bagudu, 58, of being a part of a network controlled by Abacha that “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria”.
While successive Nigerian governments have repatriated billions of dollars looted by Abacha, who died in office in 1998, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari says it is prevented from assisting the US’ ongoing forfeiture efforts by an agreement between Bagudu and a previous government in 2003
An estimate of $5 billion is said to have been stolen from Nigeria during Abacha’s five-year rule.
The 2003 settlement, which was approved by a UK court, allowed Bagudu to return $163 million to Nigeria “without admitting to wrongdoing,” according to US court filings.
In return, the government dropped all outstanding civil and criminal claims against him.
Bagudu was elected a senator in 2009 and the governor of Kebbi six years later.
Five years after the US launched fresh forfeiture proceedings against him, Bagudu and the Buhari administration struck a new accord in October 2018 to transfer ownership of the investment portfolios to the Nigerian state, which would immediately pay 98.5 million euros to the Kebbi governor and his affiliates.
Bloomberg said the terms of the updated settlement cannot be implemented while Nigeria’s application in a UK court is pending and a freezing order is still in place, according to a motion by Ibrahim Bagudu, who is entitled to a $100,000 annuity from the funds and is contesting the US confiscation efforts.