Barely 24 hours after President Muhammadu Buhari requested the United States government to assist Nigeria recover about $150 million stolen funds in that country and other nations, Washington has formally agreed to help in this regard.
In an opinion article published in Washington Post, ahead of his meeting with President Barack Obama on Monday, Buhari had asked the US government to assist Nigeria get all stolen money stashed away abroad.
In the article, Buhari said: “There are too few examples in the history of Nigeria since independence where it can be said that good management and governance were instituted at a national level.
“This lack of a governance framework has allowed many of those in charge, devoid of any real checks and balances, to plunder. The fact that I now seek Obama’s assistance in locating and returning $150 billion in funds stolen in the past decade and held in foreign bank accounts on behalf of former, corrupt officials, is testament to how badly Nigeria has been run. This way of conducting our affairs cannot continue.”
Stating how the US would assist Nigeria in a meeting with President Buhari, America’s Attorney-General, Loretta Lynch, indicated that her country would support the war on corruption by giving a teeth to the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty signed between the two countries in 1985, which came into effect in 2003.
A statement by Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity, said: “There will be collaboration. Each of the two countries will receive legal assistance from the other on criminal matters and that should cover the recovery of ill-gotten wealth.
“On extradition, we already have a treaty with US, by virtue of being a former British colonial territory. There is, however, the possibility that Nigeria might negotiate a new extradition treaty to meet our other requirements. The negotiation will be done under the auspices of a ‘re-energised’ US-Nigeria Bi-National Commission.”
In line with this, the United States will also offer training to judicial staff and prosecutors “in order to place Nigeria in a good position to uncover proceeds of corruption and for improved prosecution of cases of crime.”
President Obama had, on Monday promised to help Nigeria overcome some of its challenges, while he commended Buhari’s agenda for the country.
Speaking in the meeting with Buhari, Obama said the Nigerian President had come with a clear agenda to tackle the problems of corruption, insecurity occasioned by the activities of Boko Haram sect as well as other violent criminal activities.
He assured that the United States would continue to assist Nigeria in overcoming its challenges.
Said Obama: “It is a great pleasure to welcome President Buhari and his delegation here in the White House for his first visit since the historic election that took place. Nigeria is obviously one of the most important countries in the world, one of the most important countries in the African continent.
“Recently, we saw an election in which a peaceful transition to a new government took place. Nevertheless, the people of Nigeria understand that only through a peaceful political process that can change takes place.
“President Buhari came into office with reputation for integrity and a very clear agenda, that is to make sure that he has been bringing safety, security and peace to his country.
“He is very concerned about the spread and the violence that is taking place there and the atrocities and has a very clear agenda in defeating Boko Haram and extremists.
“I want to emphasise how much I appreciate President Buhari’s work so far. I have seen him put together a team so that we can do everything that we can to help him succeed and help the people of Nigeria succeed.”
Obama described Nigeria as one of the most important countries in the world and congratulated the country for conducting peaceful elections.
He also commended Nigeria for taking leadership position in the fight against the spread of diseases, like ebola and p?olio and pledged that his administration would continue to accord Nigeria the necessary recognition to bring peace to Africa and the world.