Seven factors were cited last night for the inability of the federal government to name the treasury looters from whom it said it had recovered N78billion, $185,119,584.61, 3,508,355.46 Pounds Sterling and 11, 250 Euros (Eleven thousand, two hundred and fifty Euros) of the money over the last one year.
These include the need to recover more funds from other looters; avoiding a web of litigations which may drag on for many years and make recovery difficult; and respect for the spirit of alternative dispute resolution as the situation in some foreign jurisdictions.
The rest, according to a well placed source, are: avoiding allegation that government was out to blackmail looters if it opted for the name and shame option; curtailing possible backlash of political and ethnic biases against the government since the looting appears one-sided; some of those who made refund were victims of circumstances without knowing the sources of the funds; and ensuring fairness and equity by separating the chaff from the wheat.
“Our ultimate objective is to recover looted funds or illegally taken away from the treasury for doing nothing. We have received cooperation from suspects who accounted for the recovered funds,” said the source.
“The fact that we have gone far in making huge recovery suggests that this quiet option is good and reliable. We will continue to apply this method to recover more funds.
“If we go ahead to name and shame, others who want to refund might not do so. In fact, the decency with which we have tried many high-profile suspects has encouraged others to make voluntary refund.
“The list is much more than what you might have read in newspapers in the past few months. Most of those making refunds actually admitted that they did not know the source(s) of such.”
The top source also cited some legal reasons for not releasing the names of looters.
The source said the wheel of justice is slow and might be hijacked for selfish reasons by suspects.
“For instance, if we go ahead to publish names, some of the suspected looters will go to court with frivolous applications that the federal government is trying to blackmail them. They will use such suits to distract the attention of the government.
“Some of the suspects also opted for alternative dispute resolution by returning looted funds and it confers a responsibility on the government to respect such obligation.
“If we push ahead to recover looted funds through the court, we might not be able to get to this recovery level.”
Asked if some of the looters would not be tried, the source added: “Each case will be treated on its merit.
“Some suspects are already on trial, others might follow suit based on circumstances of the fraud and the weight of allegations against them.
“The trial will however take note of alternative dispute resolution as in other jurisdictions.”
It was also learnt that the government was worried about the likely backlash of political and ethnic biases against the government in releasing the names of the looters.
“The government is being careful in handling the release of the looters. In some cases, the list appears one sided and before you know it, they will come up with ethnic and religious biases.
“We are already experiencing this when some suspects have started reading imputations to even ordinary invitation by anti-graft agencies.
“We do not want this government distracted, we don’t want the anti-graft derailed on the altar of politics.”
The source however claimed that the government was being careful in ensuring fairness and equity in not naming the looters.
The source said: “Some of these suspects did not know the source(s) of the looted funds shared to them. For instance, most newspapers were not told where the money came from.
“Look at the case of a publisher whose newspapers office was burnt. There was a proclamation by the government to assist the newspaper but the source of the funds landed the medium in trouble.”
It was also learnt that not all the suspected looters will face trial.
The trial of any looter will be determined by circumstances behind the remittance of such funds, refund rate and cooperation with security agencies.
The Federal Government was said, last night, to be considering every case on its merit because there were “victims of circumstances.”
Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed yesterday released the details of funds recovered from some former public officers, beneficiaries of looted funds, and politicians of various cadres in accordance with the pledge of President Muhammadu Buhari to make the loot recovery public