ICYMI: U.S. Senator Questions Abacha Monies Repatriation; Possible Magnitsky Violations

U.S. Senator Raises Concerns Over Misuse of Funds Slated for Repatriation and Escalating Human Rights Abuses, Including the Spectre of Magnitsky Sanctions against Top Nigerian Officials

Last week, Reuters reported that U.S. Senator and Chairman of the powerful U.S. Senate Finance Committee, Chuck Grassley, has raised concerns with the Trump Administration over the repatriation of $320 million in stolen Abacha monies.
In the letter, U.S. Senator Grassley raised questions about the U.S. Department of Justice’s plans to facilitate the return of $320 million to the Nigerian government “without first insisting on proper safeguards to prevent the further misuse of funds, as well as full cooperation in other forfeiture actions related to the Abacha loot.” The Senator noted that under President Buhari, “Nigerians face violations undermining freedom of religion, freedom of speech, due process, and the rule of law.

Perhaps most noteworthy in the Senator’s letter was what he had to say about AG Malami and EFCC Acting Chairman Magu and that he is asking the U.S. Department of Justice to consider investigations and potential sanctions against the two officials. 

Grassley wrote that the institutions these gentlemen oversee serve “as an enforcement arm against anyone voicing opposition to the Buhari government,” which has been directly involved in the “detention of innocent individuals and withheld critical medical care and legal representation all in violation of the Nigerian Constitution.” Senator Grassley then asked “what steps has the United States government taken to consider whether sanctions would be appropriate against certain individuals such as EFCC Chairman Magu and Attorney General Malami under the Global Magnitsky Act or the Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act?” 

Sanctions under these programs could include revocation of visas, seizures of assets, and other significant penalties.

You can read the full letter here.

The questions raised about AG Malami and Mr. Magu are consistent with concerns raised in multiple reports from governments and NGOs that have documented the escalating abuses of the Buhari regime. Recently, the U.S. Department of State released their 2019 Human Rights Country Report for Nigeria

The report found, “[s]ignificant human rights issues included unlawful and arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture, and arbitrary detention, all the above by both government and nonstate actors; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; unlawful infringement on citizens’ privacy rights; criminal libel; violence against and unjustified arrests of journalists; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association…” It also raised the flag on how the EFCC is “implicating a significant number of opposition political figures and leading to allegations of partisan motivations.

Exactly none of this has come as a surprise to P&ID, as these reports corroborate what P&ID employees and affiliates have been experiencing since the Fall of 2019, in the immediate aftermath of the UK court’s decision to uphold the legitimacy of the Arbitral Award.  Simply said, P&ID is one of many victims of Nigeria’s persecution of perceived political enemies.  Quite apart from its corrupt efforts to steer the P&ID case toward a politically expedient outcome, the individuals targeted by Nigeria as part of this effort have been subjected to treatment that falls far short of international standards for due process and the humane treatment of prisoners. 

Indeed, in the course of the EFCC’s sham investigation of P&ID – overseen by AG Malami and EFCC Chairman Magu – P&ID has highlighted numerous examples of P&ID employees and other witnesses having been subjected to treatment that falls far short of internationally accepted standards for due process and humane treatment. This includes: 

  • Detaining several individuals (including Nigerian and foreign citizens) for upwards of six weeks without charge, in an underground cell without ventilation, and without access to legal counsel or vital medication and medical care; and
  • Violating the rights of lawyers affiliated with P&ID, detaining several for merely conducting an arbitration on their client’s behalf, and apparently infringing upon the attorney-client privilege.

Here’s the irony that should not be lost on anyone, inside or outside the courtroom: AG Malami has presented concocted claims against P&ID and key witnesses before the English and U.S. Courts – all in an effort to avoid having to pay a lawful Arbitration Award in favour of P&ID that resulted from Nigeria’s own failure to perform its legal obligations under a gas supply agreement. To support its concocted claims, AG Malami relies on “evidence” from a sham EFCC investigation that has violated all norms of human rights and due process. The very tactics used against P&ID – and against countless others in Nigeria – are now rightfully being questioned by the U.S. Senate and U.S. Department of Justice as possible violations of U.S. law. 

The Facts AG Malami Doesn’t Want You to Know:

Nigeria’s sham investigation of P&ID has included the following deplorable tactics:

  • Illegally interrogating Justice Alfa Belgore, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, who provided expert evidence to the arbitral tribunal on issues of Nigerian law in the original P&ID-Nigeria arbitration, and also detaining his assistant for six nights;
  • Illegally interrogating and detaining Nigerian lawyers for P&ID, including the illegal seizure of P&ID attorney-client files related to the arbitration case;
  • Illegally detaining an elderly former low-level employee and a nominee director, who many years ago did some low-level work for P&ID, and coercing him into entering a guilty plea on behalf of P&ID which he had no authority to do;
  • Illegally detaining an Irish citizen, Jim Nolan, and threatening him with charges of industrial espionage, only offering to release him upon signing a false confession implicating P&ID (which he has refused to do), and limiting his access to legal counsel;
  • Illegally detaining Grace Taiga, a 70-year old in ill health, grandmother and retired Nigerian civil servant who served in the Nigerian Ministry of Petroleum Resources at the time the GSPA contract was signed. In late September, and as part of the EFCC investigation, the Nigerian Government charged her with receiving bribes, which she has consistently denied. She was illegally detained for 2 weeks, in violation of Nigeria’s constitution, before these charges were laid. During this time, the EFCC denied her access to essential medical care, withheld her access to legal representation and bullied and threatened her, and members of her family. She has been subjected to unannounced visits in hospital by senior members of the Government, pressuring her to plead guilty and implicate P&ID.