The French Government has made a groundbreaking move by committing to return $150 million of looted funds associated with the late Nigerian military leader, General Sani Abacha. This decision was made public during a visit by France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, to Abuja, where she informed the newly elected President Bola Tinubu of the plan to return the seized funds.
Colonna emphasized that this gesture aims to bolster the already significant bilateral relations between Nigeria and France. France’s intention is not only to return the assets but also to engage in discussions with the Nigerian administration to direct these funds toward development projects that will benefit the Nigerian populace, aligning with the priorities set by the Nigerian government12.
The recovery of Abacha’s looted funds has been an ongoing process since his death in 1998, with Nigeria reclaiming hundreds of millions of dollars stashed abroad. The return of these assets from France, which have been frozen since 2021, represents a collaborative effort, acknowledging the request from the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Justice and in agreement with the U.S. Administration2.
Highlighting the depth of economic ties, Colonna noted that France’s foreign direct investments in Nigeria have doubled over the past decade, exceeding 10 billion euros, with more than 100 French companies active in the country, creating over 10,000 jobs. The investments span across factories, farms, and vocational training centres. This reflects France’s broader goal to further increase these investments and to encourage reciprocal investments by Nigerian companies in France. Furthermore, the French Government has been directly investing in Nigeria through the French Development Agency, which has been involved in projects across 26 Nigerian states since 2010, mobilizing close to 3 billion euros12.
This initiative to return the looted funds is more than a financial transaction; it’s a testament to the strengthening diplomatic and economic relationship between France and Nigeria, and a symbol of France’s commitment to supporting Nigeria’s development and governance.