Nigeria has urged the World Bank to help ensure the swift repatriation of $320m in stolen Nigerian funds currently being held in Switzerland.
The money is just some of billions of dollars stolen by former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, who ruled Nigeria from 1993-98 following a military coup, and then stashed the funds in European bank accounts.
Switzerland has already returned some $700m that Abacha had hidden in Swiss accounts. The repatriation of the remaining funds is dependent on the World Bank monitoring the money to ensure it is spent on social welfare programmes in Nigeria, as per an agreement signed last March.
Nigeria, which has been plunged into crisis as a result of tanking oil prices, hopes the money will help jumpstart its faltering economy.
The World Bank’s managing director Sri Mulyani Indrawati was in Nigeria this week to discuss how the global lender might help Nigeria’s economy climb out of distress.
It is thought the government has been discussing a possible loan from the bank, as well as from regional lender the African Development Bank. Altogether it is looking for $3.5bn to plug the budget deficit.
While the World Bank said in February it was considering the loan, no mention seems to have been made of it at this week’s meetings.
The Nigerian government is planning a range of reforms, spanning tax collection, public financial management and anti-corruption.
Indrawati commended the government’s initiatives and said the bank will “strongly support” its efforts to create prosperity in Nigeria and fight corruption.
Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari, who won last April’s election in Nigeria on an anti-corruption ticket, said the country needs the support of the bank, and vowed the funds would be used appropriately.
“We are as concerned as the World Bank about accountability. $320m is a lot of money and we will not allow it to be misappropriated or diverted,” he said in a statement from his office.
By Emma Rumney and first published in Public Finance International