Governments, anti-graft and law enforcement agencies on the African continent have been told to prioritise returning stolen assets back to the original owners of such assets from whom they were stolen by looting elite.
Speaking at the Global South Forum for Asset Recovery in Nairobi, Kenya, the Executive Director of the Nigerian NGO, the Civil Society Legislative and Advocacy Centre, (CISLAC), Mallam Auwal Musa Rafsanjani who doubles as the head of Transparency International Nigeria, said it is crucial that citizen-owners of stolen assets benefit from its recovery from corrupt rulers.
The forum which has representatives drawn from civil society organizations in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Angola, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United State, France, Germany as well as representatives from the African Union secretariat, GIZ amongst others heard the frontline civil society activist decrying the practice of marginalizing the original victims of stolen assets across the continent, using the example of the case between the Nigerian government and Delta State as well as the mismanaged COVID-19 funds in Kenya.
If not properly checked, said Rafsanjani, the assets risk being re-looted by officials who don’t mean well for their country, insisting that African countries need to come up with legal frameworks for the management of recovered assets so that, amongst other reasons, countries outside the African continent where the assets are kept would be encouraged to send them back to Africa.
Rafsanjani also charged law enforcement and anti-graft agencies in Nigeria to adhere strictly to the recently passed Proceeds of Crime. (Recovery and Management) Act, 2022 when it comes to seizures, confiscation and management of recovered assets. Granting though that the new law does not solve the problem of proper coordination, he is, however, happy with the provision for anti-graft agencies to operate a database of recovered information where citizens can know the status of seized assets is commendable, commending President Buhari and the National Assembly for the piece of legislation which, according to him, was long overdue.
But he is warning against plausible diversion of seized assets to what he calls bogus projects as opposed to projects that will benefit the citizens, centralizing more cooperation between state and non-state actors in asset tracing, repatriation and disposal.