Nigeria and Britain have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the modalities for the return of stolen assets. The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, signed on behalf of the Federal Government while the British Minister of State for Immigration, Robert Goodwill, endorsed the pact on behalf of his home government.
During the exercise which held at the Ministry of Justice yesterday, Goodwill stated that the MoU provides the mechanism by which looted funds could be returned to Nigeria.
Goodwill who noted that there is no safe place for stolen assets in the United Kingdom (UK) any longer, maintained that the ability to recover and return the previously looted funds would discourage future attempts to steal funds.
“Our ability to recover and return stolen assets should send a clear message to all who may seek to habour such assets that there is no safe haven in the UK”, he said.
The signing of the MoU was a follow- up to the agreement reached at the London anti-corruption summit in May.
According to the British delegate, British government is committed to returning funds looted from Nigeria. “We are keen to do this as soon as the necessary legal process allows. As outlined at the summit, we would be taking steps to accelerate the procedures for identification and confiscation of illegally-acquired assets.
“We are committed to ensuring that beneficial ownership of assets is made available to relevant authorities so they know the real owners of assets held in the UK.”
The British minister stressed that 40 jurisdictions, including British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, have stated that they would automatically share beneficial ownership information relating to companies, trusts, foundations and other relevant entities and legal arrangements.
In his response, Malami reflected the desire and willingness of both countries to continue co-operation and mutual support in the responsible and transparent return of all recovered assets.
He further outlined the objectives of the MoU to include the facts that:
• the processes of returning stolen assets was a partnership recognising the interest of both countries and based on mutual understanding, confidence and trust;
• both countries recognised that they have a mutual interest in ensuring that returned assets are not at risk of being misappropriated again and that both countries recognised they have obligations towards their own citizens for providing such assurances; and
• both countries recognised the importance of ensuring that the highest possible standard of transparency and accountability are applied for the return of assets.