Nigeria’s state governors sued the federal government for allegedly failing to share billions of dollars in confiscated money with their administrations.
The West African nation’s 36 heads of state filed a case in the Supreme Court in March seeking to order President Muhammadu Buhari to explain his government’s use of 1.84 trillion naira ($4.7 billion) of stolen cash Went. According to the lawsuit, when being assigned to special projects or unknown destinations, the funds have left the proper account.
“The states have been deprived of their fair share,” the Nigeria Governors Forum said in an affidavit submitted to the court on June 16. The plaintiffs want the court to decide that Buhari, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed and Attorney General Abubakar Malami acted unconstitutionally. Not transferring the recovered funds to the so-called Federation Account for distribution among different levels of government.
A spokesman for Malami defended the actions of the central government. Spokesmen for Buhari and Ahmed declined to comment on the lawsuit, which was first publicly disclosed this week.
Nigerian states collectively relied on allocations from the Federation account for 64% of their revenues last year, data from the government’s statistics agency showed. Most of the expenditure by the state governments goes towards recurring costs and debt repayment, leaving little room for capital investment.
According to the affidavit, since Buhari was elected to office in 2015, on top of 1.84 trillion naira in various currencies, the central government has seized 167 assets, 750 vehicles and crude oil worth over 450 billion naira.
The affidavit states that Buhari and Ahmed “failed to remit the said amount to the Federation Account,” which has been “enforced for the sole purpose of the federal government.” “Furthermore, the recovered assets have not been substantially accounted for.”
More than $634 million stolen by former military dictator Sani Abacha and his allies has been brought back from abroad in two phases.
The lawsuit alleges that of that amount, Buhari’s government returned $322.5 million to Switzerland’s selected social investment programs “without proper allocation” and to “great damages” to the states. An agreement for Nigeria’s Sovereign Wealth Fund with the US and the British Crown dependency of Jersey to administer the $31.8 million confiscated fund is a “gross violation of the Constitution,” it said.
Malami spokesman Omar Gwandu said recovery from overseas is governed by international conventions and agreements rather than local law. “Nigeria should always strive to meet its international commitments in the repatriation and use of stolen funds and assets,” he said. Gwandu said that the central government has also legitimately handled property seized domestically.
The governor is seeking a decision to direct Bukhari’s administration to give an account of the recovered money and transfer them to the federation account. The suit states that all “illegally diverted revenue must be repaid” from the central government’s share of its own fund or shared account.
The governors are “confident that the Supreme Court will resolve the long-standing dispute between the central and state governments” over the distribution of the looted money recovered by the nation “,” said his lawyer, Femi Falana.