The Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ, organised her Annual Learning Summit of the MANTRA Project at Rockview Hotel, Abuja on April 18, 2019. The Learning Summit brought together dignitaries from government agencies like NCTO, FMoJ, NASSCO, NSIO, Senator; Donor agency like DFID, MANTRA Project Partners, CSOs, Beneficiaries and citizens at large to learn about how the Abacha loot is been distributed to the poor of the poorest in the society, share success stories/results achieved in MANTRA one and proffer recommendations on what didn't work and how such areas can be improved on in going forward in MANTRA two.
Group Photograph of participants at the ANEEJ MANTRA Annual Learning Summit in Abuja
Below is ANEEJ Executive Director's Welcome Address:
It gives me great honour and pleasure to welcome all of you to this important Learning Summit of the Transparency and Accountability in the Recovery and Management of Looted Assets (MANTRA) project being implemented by the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice and its Six Partners with support from UKAID.
MANTRA was designed to address issues of corruption within the broader objectives of the Anti-Corruption in Nigeria (ACORN) program of the British Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) which aims to strengthen the anticorruption regime in Nigeria. The MANTRA project aims to ensure that assets recovered are disbursed or invested in programmes for the poor and vulnerable in line with the SDGs.
At a broader level, MANTRA is also advocating for an improvement of the policy, legislative and institutional framework for the recovery and management of recovered loot in Nigeria and accordingly strengthen the capacity of CSOs to monitor the use of recovered assets. We are also working towards changing the behaviour of Nigerians that tend to fuel corruption.
MANTRA 1 Learning Summit started yesterday with project partners drawn from the six geo-political zones of the country reviewing our draft field report from the Independent Civil Society monitoring of $322.5million recovered from Switzerland being deployed to the poorest of the poor under the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme of the Federal Government’s Social Investment Programme. We had carried out our first monitoring exercise in December 2019 for the August-September payments to the CCT enrollees, deploying over 500 monitors across the country for the first exercise. We hope to release our findings of the first monitoring exercise to the public before the end of April.
We are also excited with the news of the passage of the Proceeds of Crime Bill by the Senate yesterday. For us, this is a major deliverable for the MANTRA project. Since the version of the Bill passed by the Senate yesterday is different from the one earlier passed by the House of Representatives, we call on the two Chambers of the National Assembly to urgently harmonise both versions and speedily send the harmonized version to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent before the end of the 8th National Assembly . As we launch the Last Push for the Passage of the POCA Bill which will provide the national architecture for asset recovery in Nigeria, we like to call on all stakeholders to support the National Assembly as they take the historical decision to firm up anti-corruption framework in the Country.
It is on this score that we like to appreciate the energy and high sense of patriotism put into the passage of the Bill by the Chairman, on Anti-Corruption & Financial Crimes, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, and the Senate Committee Chairman on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, Senator David Umaru. We also wish to appreciate the leading role of the Honourable Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) and his team in the Federal Ministry of Justice as well as our Civil Society colleagues for their relentless efforts towards the passage of the POCA Bill.
We call on President Buhari to support the Passage of the Proceed of Crime(POCA) Bill.
We are happy to inform you that MANTRA have recorded some modest success which I will be sharing with you later during the technical session and I am happy to inform you that among the GFAR Countries, MANTRA is now a reference model being invited across the globe to share our experiences on how Government and Civil Society have partnered to ensure citizens participation in the recovery and management of looted assets.
For today’s Learning Summit, we have invited all stakeholders in the MANTRA project to share experiences and Learnings for us to know what have worked well and challenges encountered. We also want to learn from all of you what did not work well so that, together, we chart new ways to strengthen assets recovery and management systems. We hope to rejig our strategies for better results and impact for both MANTRA and the overarching ACORN programme as we drill down to what works for the project as we get set to commence the implementation of MANTRA 2 recently approved by DFID spanning up till 2021.
The implication of this positive development is that we have to work extra hard to achieve reduction of corruption in Nigeria through changing public behavior that disapproves of corruption and actively demand transparency and Accountability in the use of public resources, particularly in the processes associated with recovery and management of looted assets.
We also have the opportunity in this Summit to hear experiences from the MANTRA project beneficiaries, including vulnerable victims of corruption who are beneficiaries of the returned Abacha loot. We hope to use this session to fire our collective resolve to rid Nigeria of corruption as it has dealt devastating consequences on the nation.
We would also have the opportunity of hearing from our key partner, the Asset Recovery and Management Unit (ARMU) of the Federal Ministry of Justice on efforts being made to repatriate Abacha 3 from the United States of America and how we can work together to ensure transparent and accountable management of the recovered loot. I therefore enjoin everyone to be active participants in this Learning summit as we are prepared to also Learn from your wealth of experiences going forward.
Again, I welcome you all and wish us all very fruitful deliberations.
F-R: Linda Ekeator, National Social Investment Legal Manager, NSIO; Rev. David Ugolor, ANEEJ Executive Director; Sonia Warmer, SRO, DFID.
A widow by name Martins Philip from Dari Ward, Dari Community of Nasarawa State, testify how the cash transfer programme has elevated her family from abject poverty at the Learning Summit.