Congress has a decision to make: turn a blind eye to corruption and Christian persecution, or use an impending repatriation of hundreds of millions of dollars laundered to address these issues.
Sen. Chuck Grassley is strongly encouraging the latter.
The United States and the British Isle of Jersey recently agreed to return over $300 million embezzled by Nigeria’s corrupt former dictator General Sani Abacha, and Sen. Grassley has rightly raised concerns about the absence of “proper safeguards to prevent the further misuse of funds.”
Given Nigeria’s decades of raging corruption, any agreement void of meaningful oversight – like granting U.S. officials the authority to conduct investigations, establishing reporting timelines and protocols, or even specifying how the prosecution of further corruption would unfold – is a disaster waiting to happen.
Barring major oversight or transparency mechanisms attached to the release of funds, the U.S. would become a co-conspirator in Nigeria’s persecution of Christians, quashing of press freedoms, and lining the pockets of the elite – the opposite of President Trump’s foreign policy goals.
Under current President Muhammadu Buhari, the Economic Financial Crimes Commission – the body intended to root out corruption – has been weaponized into a political persecution machine.
The commission detained former Nigerian Attorney and Buhari anti-corruption activist General Mohammed Adoke despite not charging him with a single crime and even denied him medical care.
And Senator Shehu Sani, a critic of the Buhari government, has also fallen victim to the EFCC. He recounted his detention, which included “brutal and traumatizing interrogations” to elicit a forced confession, as “hellish, unfair, unjust and a clear breach of his fundamental human rights.”
Predictably, the EFCC called Sen. Grassley’s letter “malicious,” brazenly claiming its chairman, Ibrahim Magu, “tackles the menace of corruption without fear or favour.” Magu also touts receiving an award from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for battling corruption as evidence he’s up to the task of ensuring a transparent repatriation of funds.
While the FBI is certainly familiar with corruption on its own shores – Crossfire Hurricane and the findings of the Horowitz Report to say the least – it’s allowing the same politically-motivated attacks to spread in Nigeria. Congress shouldn’t let it continue.
Especially since the EFCC is just the tip of the iceberg.
In a related case, the Buhari government has refused to cooperate with the Department of Justice in transferring an additional $100 million of Abacha’s loot and admitted it would return the repatriated sum to a government official who “was involved in corruption with Abacha” according to DOJ reports.
Without any preconditions, the money will be used to line the pockets of the people who stole the money in the first place – not to help the nearly 90 million Nigerians who live in extreme poverty.
And even if the funds managed to reach the Buhari government unobstructed, it would be funding a government that continually undermines Nigeria’s already eroded freedom of religion, freedom of speech, due process, and rule of law.
The persecution of Christians, of great concern for the United States, has increased dramatically.
Nearly 12,000 Christians have been killed for practicing their faith since Buhari came to power in 2015 according to Amnesty International.
In the first four months of 2020 alone, an estimated 350 Christians were murdered. Even the State Department is cognizant of this threat.
In December, it designated the country as a “severe violator of religious freedom”and placed it on the Special Watch List.
Freedom of the press has also deteriorated, and with that, the ability for journalists to hold the government accountable when it inevitably receives the repatriated sum has evaporated.
Omoyele Sowore, a human rights activist and reporter, was arrested for daring to report on Buhari’s corruption and countless human rights violations. Despite posting bail, he was immediately re-arrested by the country’s highest judicial authority who claimed he lacked the appropriate power to release Sowore, who’s currently awaiting trial after pressure from U.S. representatives.
The list of abuses goes on.
The U.S. shouldn’t be complicit in handing over hundreds of millions of dollars to a regime with corruption ad infinitum as its modus operandi and a deplorable track record on human rights.
While America certainly shouldn’t be the policeman of the world, this is an easy opportunity to advance the Trump administration’s foreign policy goals and defend the defenseless at no cost to American lives or taxpayer dollars.