The Monitoring of Recovered Asset through Transparency and Accountability, MANTRA, is a project designed to address problems within the broader objectives of the Anti-Corruption in Nigeria (ACORN) programme of the British Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) to strengthen the anticorruption regime in Nigeria.
Corruption remains a perennial challenge to development in Nigeria. Despite its wealth of massive crude oil deposits and other resources, the country continues to experience widespread poverty and underdevelopment. According to the UN and the AU, around $148 billion is stolen from Africa annually by political leaders, multinational corporations, the business elite and civil servants with complicity of banking and property industries in Europe, North America and elsewhere who facilitate the laundering of such funds through complex financial transactions and mechanisms. Estimates indicate that Nigeria lost about $40 billion as illicit financial flows between 2001 and 2010 alone. Transparency International (TI), recently ranked Nigeria 148th out of 180 countries ranked in its 2017 Corruption Perception Index (CPI). The country, according to the CPI, scored 28 out of 100, a figure lower than the average in the Sub-Saharan region
Hence, despite concerted efforts to address corruption at the national level through prosecution and related measures, the prospect of such anticorruption efforts being translated into tangible benefits for citizens depends largely on the ability of the country to track, trace, repatriate and utilise looted assets for developmental purposes. The Federal Government of Nigeria, working with the international community, has demonstrated obvious commitment and determination to doing this through the measures provided by the provisions of UNCAC, the commitments made at the London Anticorruption Summit in 2016, the Global Forum on Asset Recovery in 2017 and other mechanisms
Progress has been made in this regard.The Switzerland Government has, per an MoU signed by the Nigeria Government with Swiss Banks and the World Bank, recently returned $321 million to Nigeria as part of the over $4 billion stolen by late dictator, General Sani Abacha, which the Federal Government has committed to use in financing social welfare programmes. The United Kingdom has also agreed to return the $73 million from the Malabu oil deal whilst the United States is also in the process of returning $900,000 stashed in that country by the former Governor of Bayelsa State, DiepriyeAlamieyeseigha.
Despite these encouraging developments, the recovery and management of recovered assets for the benefit of the poor citizens of Nigeria who are the ultimate victims of corruption is beset by many problems, including:
- The lack of a clear policy framework for the management of looted assets recovered
- The re-looting of recovered assets by corrupt public officials
- Low public awareness and advocacy on the recovery and use of looted assets
The project is created to achieve the goal of strengthening the capacity of CSOs and citizens to monitor the use of repatriated loot, embark on advocacy to improve the policy, legislative and institutional framework for the recovery and management of looted assets in Nigeria and mobilise collective action in demanding a cleaner society.
In accordance with this, the MANTRA project will look to achieve the following objectives:
- A public more aware and knowledgeable enough to hold government accountable on issues of recovery and management of looted assets.
- The capacity CSOs and citizens enhanced to effectively monitor the use of the recovered $322.5 million Abacha loot, $73 million from the Malabu oil deal, $900,000 from the Alamieyeseigha loot and other looted assets recovered.
- A robust civil society movement:
(i) Actively advocating for a policy framework that will engender transparent and accountable recovery and management of looted assets.
(ii) Collectively monitoring the implementation of Nigeria’s commitments from the London Anti-Corruption Summit and GFAR.
(iii)Promoting societal and behavioural changes against corruption
This project is fully supported by DFID:
Illicit Financial Flows, Report of the High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa, Commissioned by the Africa Union/ECW Conference of Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (2015). https://www.uneca.org/sites/default/files/PublicationFiles/iff_main_rep….