U.S. To Help Trace Nigeria’s Stolen Funds, Boost Military Aid | Independent Newspapers Limited
Newsletter subscribe

News, Slider

U.S. To Help Trace Nigeria’s Stolen Funds, Boost Military Aid

Posted: Jul 20, 2015 at 12:03 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Sola Alabadan, With agency reports

Ahead of his official visit beginning from today and at a time the Federal Government needs all the money it can muster to fund promises made during the last electioneering campaigns, the United States has offered to help President Muhammadu Buhari track down billions of dollars in stolen assets and increase U.S. military assistance to fight Boko Haram insurgents, Reuters on Sunday quoted U.S. officials as saying.

General Muhammadu Buhari

General Muhammadu Buhari

As the U.S. cooperation with immediate past president, Goodluck Jonathan, virtually grounded to a halt due to his refusal to investigate corruption and human rights abuses by the Nigerian military, President Buhari’s visit to Washington is viewed by the U.S. administration as a chance to set the seal on improving ties since he won the election on March 28.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken told Reuters “President (Barack Obama) has long seen Nigeria as arguably the most important strategic country in sub-Saharan Africa.

“The question is: Would there be an opportunity to deepen our engagement, and that opportunity is now.”

This development is taking place at a time U.S. relations have gone cold with two other traditional Africa powers – Egypt and South Africa.

U.S. officials say they are willing to send military trainers to help Nigeria counter a six-year-old northern insurgency by the Boko Haram Islamist movement.

Since Buhari’s election, Washington has committed $5 million in new support for a multi-national task force set up to fight the group. This is in addition to at least $34 million it is providing to Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger for equipment and logistics.

U.S. officials also affirmed that President Buhari’s decision to sack military chiefs appointed by Jonathan clears the way for more military cooperation.

“We’ve made it clear there are additional things that can be done especially now that there is a new military leadership in place,” a senior U.S. official said.

Another senior U.S. official was also quoted as saying that the Washington has urged Buhari to step up regional cooperation against the militants and provide more aid to afflicted communities to reduce the group’s recruiting power.

Buhari has said his priorities are strengthening the nation’s economy hard-hit by the fall in oil prices, boosting investment, and tackling corruption.

“Here too, he is looking to deepen collaboration and one of the things he is focused on is asset recovery,” the official said. “He is hopeful we can help them recover some of that.”

In 2014, the United States took control of more than $480 million siphoned away by former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha and his associates into banks around the world.

Johnnie Carson, a former assistant secretary of state, warned Washington not  to allow security issues overshadow the need for closer trade and investment ties.

“Nigeria is the most important country in Africa,” said Carson, currently an adviser to the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Now more than ever, “the relationship with Nigeria should not rest essentially on a security and military-to-military relationship,” he added.

Lauren Ploch Blanchard, an Africa specialist with the non-partisan Congressional Research Services, said the U.S. challenge was to work with Buhari while giving him time to address the country’s vast problems.

How Buhari will handle the campaign against Boko Haram is still to unknown, Blanchard said.

During a meeting with state governors on June 23 in the Presidential Villa, the President vowed to recover funds stolen by government officials, who abused their offices in the recent past, and also stop systemic leakages.

He assured his guests that the days of impunity, lack of accountability, and fiscal recklessness in the management of national resources were over in Nigeria.

In a statement after the parley, the Presidency lamented that although “there are financial and administrative instructions in every government parastatal and agency, all these were thrown to the dogs in the past.

“Honestly, our problems are great, but we will do our best to surmount them”.

Buhari also told the Governors that the next three months may be hard, but billions of dollars could be recovered, even as he expressed surprise that the governors tolerated the atrocities allegedly committed with the Excess Crude Account (ECA) since 2011, but promised to tackle the issue decisively.

The President declared that the payment of national revenue into any account other than the Federation Account was an abuse of the constitution, stressing that what he heard was going on in many agencies and corporations, particularly the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), was clearly illegal.