Some lawyers have tackled the Federal Government’s plan for the $311m Abacha loot returned to the country.
The FG after receiving the money on Monday from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey, announced that it would support and assist in expediting the construction of three major infrastructure projects across Nigeria, including the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kano Road, and the Second Niger Bridge.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, had said this was based on agreement with the US and Jersey.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Femi Falana, said the money ought to be shared and not kept in the Federation Account by the Federal Government.
“The money does not belong to the Federal Government alone; it belongs to the three tiers of government. So, if money was taken away from the Federation Account and it’s been brought back, it must go to the Federation Account for sharing by the three tiers of government. It can’t be used for funding the budget of the Federal Government alone.
“As far as the law is concerned, this money does not belong to the Federal Government so it cannot be used by the FG,” Falana said.
The respected human rights lawyer, who spoke in an interview on Channels TV, said the Federal Government must be ready to refund the money if it went ahead to spend it on the projects.
He also slammed the decision of the Federal Government to enter into an agreement on how the funds would be spent, describing it as an insult to the country.
Another legal practitioner, Jiti Ogunye, welcomed the receipt of the money, urging the government to make efforts to recover more looted funds.
While agreeing with Falana that the money should be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation Account and shared among the three tiers of the government, said the state governors were dumb.
“They are too unserious to generate a debate or a constitutional question out of it, and make a case for the money to be shared according to the prescription of the law. In any case, what do the state governments do with their statutory monthly allocations? Do they have the morality to insist that the recovered money be shared as we have argued?” he said.
Ogunye said the states ought to have challenged the Federal Government at the Supreme Court to determine whether recovered loots belonged to the Federal Government alone, or the federation of Nigeria.
“If the question is determined in favour of the money belonging to the entire country, the states can, in the legal action, obtain an order of mandamus compelling the Federal Government of Nigeria to pay the money into the Federation Account so that it may be shared in accordance with the extant revenue allocation formula,” he added.
Ogunye observed that while Nigeria was bound to honour its international agreements, any arrangement that was at variance with the provisions of the Constitution of Nigeria was null and void.
He said, “Nigeria must not break its own laws. No external sovereign can compel Nigeria to willfully violate its own laws.
“It is obvious that the chief concern of the country returning the loot is that the money be prudently spent and not re-looted. Our view is that there shouldn’t be any conflict between prudently and lawfully spending the money. The money can still be prudently spent, if lawfully expended.”