New Jersey’s Royal Court has decided to return stolen assets worth $8.9 million (£6.9 million) to Nigeria. This follows a move by New Jersey’s Attorney General in November to declare that the funds, held in a Jersey bank account, were likely misappropriated by Nigerian government officials in 2014.
The funds were reportedly moved under the disguise of government-approved contracts for purchasing weapons during Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria from 2009 to 2015. The controversy surrounds the period when Goodluck Jonathan, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was the President from 2010 to 2015. There were allegations of funds diversion by the then National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, meant for security equipment.
In late 2014, a private jet belonging to Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, then President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), was seized in South Africa with $10 million in cash, allegedly intended for buying military weapons.
The New Jersey court found that the majority of the funds, initially intended for legitimate arms deals, were redirected through foreign bank accounts and shell companies linked to Nigeria’s former ruling party.
Mark Temple KC, Jersey’s Attorney General, highlighted the cooperation between Jersey and Nigeria in the recovery process.
Temple stressed the effectiveness of the 2018 Forfeiture Law in combating corruption and restoring funds to victims of crime. Plans are underway to negotiate an asset return agreement with the Nigerian government.
He said: “This case again demonstrates the effectiveness of the 2018 Forfeiture Law in recovering the proceeds of corruption and restoring that money to victims of crime.
“I now intend to negotiate an asset return agreement with the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”