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DOJ responds to Grassley letter about repatriating money stolen from Nigeria

Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd assured the Iowa Republican, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, that provisions exist to monitor the money.

Updated: April 29, 2020 - 9:35pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) this week responded to an April 1 letter from Sen. Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley in which the Iowa Republican expressed concerns about plans to repatriate more than $300 million in stolen funds to Nigeria.

In its April 27 response signed by Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd, the DOJ assured Grassley that a trilateral agreement between the U.S., Nigeria, and the Bailiwick of Jersey contains provisions to monitor what Nigeria does with around $311.8 million that was previously stolen by the African nation's former dictator General Sani Abacha.

The DOJ said that the binding agreement constrains what Nigeria is permitted to spend the funds on, noting that the nation will use the money for infrastructure projects.

"These ongoing infrastructure projects are being administered by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), which is an audited, quasi-independent agency governed by a board of directors, none of whom is a Nigerian government official," the DOJ explains.

An independent auditor and an independent civil society group will monitor the parts of projects to which the funding goes.

The agreement blocks the money from being utilized in a manner "that would benefit the alleged perpetrators of the underlying criminal conduct, including the current governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu," and it includes a "'claw back' provision" requiring Nigeria to return any money determined to have been inappropriately spent.

In his April 1 letter Sen. Grassley raised human rights issues, including the murder of Christians by a Boko Haram/ISIS-related group.

"Under President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, Nigerians face violations undermining freedom of religion, freedom of speech, due process, and the rule of law," Grassley wrote."Last Christmas, a Boko Haram/ISIS affiliated group beheaded ten Christian Nigerians and shot another. The Buhari government’s failure to adequately combat such non-state terrorism has emboldened these groups to increase attacks on innocent and peaceful citizens." 

The DOJ told Grassley it also wants to uphold human rights, noting that "the Agreement also mandates that the civil society monitor have the necessary skills and experience to ensure that the funds are expended on projects implemented in compliance with standards for combatting human trafficking."