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Abacha loot: US lawmakers oppose return of $320m

Two members of the United States House of Representatives, Steve Chabot and Chris Smith, have expressed concern over alleged human rights violations under the regime of the President Muhammadu Buhari, in light of plans to return $320m stolen by the late military dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha.

A  United States-based political organisation, American Principles Project, in a letter to the US Attorney General, William Barr, dated April 22, 2020, stated that the congressmen had relayed their fears to Barr.

The letter, signed by APP Executive Director, Terry Schilling, said, “Concern with Nigeria’s behaviour under the Buhari Administration is growing.

“Recently, US Senator (Chuck) Grassley has written to the DOJ noting that, under President Muhammadu Buhari’s government, Nigerians face violations undermining freedom of religion, freedom of speech, due process, and the rule of law.

“The persecution of Christians is especially alarming, as attacks have increased rapidly.’ Similar concerns were also shared with you by Representatives Steve Chabot and Chris Smith.”

The APP expressed its objection to the decision by the US Department of Justice to repatriate the $320m Abacha loot to Nigeria, saying the funds should not be returned until human rights, religious liberties, and due process had significantly improved.

It added, “Recently, the United States Government concluded that under the direction of President Muhammadu Buhari and his administration, Nigeria has become a ‘severe violator of religious freedom.’ The evidence to support this conclusion is overwhelming.

“Amnesty International, Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, the International Committee on Nigeria, and the International Organisation for Peace Building and Social Justice have documented that since President Buhari came into power in 2015, more than 12,000 Nigerians have been murdered, of which more than half have been singled out because of their Christian faith.”

The group said, apart from the “deeply troubling” persecution of Christians, the 2019 Human Rights report by the US State Department had alleged systematic human rights and due process violations at the hands of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Attorney General Abubakar Malami, and Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu.

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