Buhari seeks World Bank’s help in recovering Abacha’s loot

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ABUJA, April 27 (Reuters) – The World Bank’s managing director and Nigeria’s president on Wednesday discussed how the multilateral lender could help Nigeria overcome its economic crisis and repatriate more than $300 million stolen by a former military ruler.

On her second day of meetings with Nigerian officials, World Bank Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer Sri Mulyani Indrawati held talks with President Muhammadu Buhari which centred around plans to stimulate the flagging economy with a record 6 trillion naira ($31 billion) budget.

The economic crisis in Africa’s top oil exporter has been caused mainly by a sharp fall in crude prices eating into its oil revenues, which make up about 70 percent of national income.

Nigeria will have to borrow 1.8 trillion naira from abroad and at home to help fund the budget, which has been delayed by several months and wrangling with parliament, if it goes ahead.

Although Nigeria has held talks with the World Bank over a possible loan or credit facility in recent months, Indrawati did not address this when speaking to reporters after the meeting.

“We would like to know how we can help Nigeria to make the very important decisions, whether on micro economic policy and other sectoral policy, that will make this economy move forward to become a strong middle income country,” she said.

Nigeria’s economy, the largest in Africa, grew by 2.8 percent last year, its slowest pace since 1999.

Indrawati, who met Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun on Tuesday, said she and Buhari discussed the government’s “commendable goals to improve tax collection and crackdown on corruption”.

During the meeting, Buhari urged the World Bank to assist in the repatriation of $320 million stolen by former military leader Sani Abacha, which is being held by authorities in Switzerland, his office said in a statement.

One of the conditions given by Swiss Authorities for repatriation of the funds was that the money should be used for social welfare programmes, which is to be monitored by the World Bank.

“We are as concerned as the World Bank about accountability. If such repatriated funds have been misapplied in the past, I assure you that the same will not happen with us,” said Buhari, who won an election last April on an anti-corruption ticket.

The statement added that $320 million was “a lot of money” which would “help to ease the current economic hardship facing the country”.

Source: Reuters