By Ladi Olorunyomi
Lawmakers in the Congress of the United States of America may soon vote on a bill that will allow President Barack Obama and his government to set aside all or part of Abacha loot recovered in the U.S. for victims of the Boko Haram insurgency.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee who represents the 18th District of Texas, is sponsoring a bill, H.R. 528, which will allow the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to use money from the recovered Abacha loot that is in its custody to provide relief for families of the abducted Chibok girls, PREMIUM TIMES correspondent in Washington reported.
Speaking on Wednesday (May 11) at a Congressional subcommittee hearing on the U.S. role in helping Nigeria confront Boko Haram and other threats in Northern Nigeria, Ms. Jackson Lee sought the Committee’s support for H.R. 528.
“I have HR 528 which I would like to bring to the Committee’s attention”, she said, giving the title of the bill as “Victims of Terror Protection Act” and added that “it deals with the Abacha loot which the DOJ has.”
Ms. Jackson Lee was one of 10 people who spoke at the hearing, including one of the Chibok girls who escaped from Boko Haram terrorists on the night they were kidnapped.
The Congresswoman, who visited Nigeria on a fact-finding mission a few weeks after the kidnapping, said the bill was motivated by the plight of the families of the kidnapped girls and that the intention was to create relief fund for them and other victims.
“When we were in Nigeria two years ago, families were still in pain, they are still in limbo,” she said, adding “Boko Haram has killed Muslims, Christians and others, they’ve killed and burned mosques and churches and homes and schools.”
She said while the overall question remained what we can do to bring the girls back, “there are broken families out there” and she believed the DOJ “can begin to utilize that money asap” to provide the relief these families desperately need.
The U.S. was one of the earliest destinations late Sani Abacha and his family chose for their illegally acquired wealth.
Mohammed Abacha and his late brother, Ibrahim, opened accounts with Citibank, New York, in 1992 using the aliases Chinquinto, Gelsobella and Navarrio.
Three years later, they opened a business account with the name Morgan Procurement. The Abachas gave a US-French citizen, named Alain Ober, power of attorney over their New York and London bank accounts.
By 1999 when a U.S. Senate Committee began investigating Abacha loot, the accounts had recorded more than $110 million transactions including $47 million that passed through the New York accounts within six months and $37 million found in one account in 1995.
Mr. Ober and other officials of Citibank testified before the U.S. Senate back in 1999, admitting to moving money for the Abachas but claiming that they were not aware of their clients’ true identity.