Recovered ‘Abacha loot’ to be distributed to poor Nigerians

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Money stolen by Abacha in the 1990s was originally deposited in Luxembourg and is a fraction of the billions of dollars allegedly looted while Abacha was in power from 1993 to 1998.

The Nigerian government has said money looted by the country’s former military ruler Sani Abacha will be distributed to poor families.

The stolen money amounting to more than $300m was returned by the Swiss authorities and will be distributed starting next month to around 300,000 households, each getting around $14 a month.

But critics have expressed their fear that the handouts could be a way to influence the 2019 election.

The payment to be made to residents in 19 of Nigeria’s 36 states, at the rate at which it will be given will last for six years.

The money stolen by Abacha in the 1990s was originally deposited in Luxembourg and is a fraction of the billions of dollars allegedly looted while Abacha was in power from 1993 to 1998.

Abacha ruled the West African country with an iron fist until his sudden death on 8 June 1998 after an apparent heart attack.

Recovery of stolen assets was one of major parts of President Buhari’s 2015 election campaign. The President has said he will stand for re-election.

Approximately $1b is believed to have been returned to Nigeria by Switzerland over the last 10 years.

The cash payments are part of the Nigeria National Social Safety Net Program (NAASP) which helps poor families.

The World Bank will supervise and conduct regular audits of payments of the money which will be done in installments and in small amounts from July.

According to Roberto Balzaretti, one of the Swiss officials involved in the negotiations with Nigeria, if the first installment is not properly accounted for, subsequent payment will be halted in order to prevent the funds from being stolen again.

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