Nigeria pleased with efforts from European Union and Switzerland

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It’s been a week of Europe’s exhibition of support to the efforts of the Nigerian government in transparency, fight against corruption and state civility. The European Union (EU) has supported Nigeria’s peace process in the Niger Delta with a fund pledge of $1bn. A Swiss court, on the other hand has ordered the seizure of $350m in assets from, Abba Abacha, son of Nigeria’s former military ruler, General Sani Abacha.

According to analysts, a bulk of the EU funds will be used for conflict resolution in the oil-rich region, and to target electoral reform and improvement of human rights in the country. “I’m delighted that a substantial amount of this financing will go to support conflict resolution and the peace process in the Niger Delta which has been ravaged by years of unrest,” said Karel De Gucht, the EU’s development commissioner.

According to the economic office of the EU development commission, 25% of the funds will be used for peace and security, 44% for governance and human rights, 16% for trade, region integration and energy, and 15% for environment, health, culture and sciences.

According to reports, Nigerian president Mr. Umaru Musa Yar’Adua expressed happiness with European Union’s (EU) offer of assistance on the proposed construction of the N2.4 trillion (about $21 billion) Trans-Saharan gas pipeline from Nigeria to Algeria. EU officials say the pipeline could supply 20 billion cubic metres a year of gas to Europe by 2016.

The EU has shown their support for the Niger Delta peace process and human rights, as most of the oil corporations operating in the country are European. But It is believed that the sudden interest by the EU is as result of President Yar’Adua recent unveiling of a “gas master plan” to address policy concerns which is holding back investment.

For years militants have blown up pipelines and kidnapped foreign oil workers, demanding a fairer share of the wealth.

The rebels, over the past few months, have given up their weapons in an amnesty deal offered by the government in return for the promise of education and jobs. A three-month cease-fire has brought back some oil and gas production, but skeptics fear the former fighters could resume violence if the government fails to keep its side of the bargain.

While this support by the EU has been praised by Nigerians, the news that $350 million recovered from the son of Sani Abacha, former Nigerian military dictator, will be returned to the Nigerian government, has also been welcomed in the country.

Nigerian state lawyers believe Sani Abacha, who ruled from 1993 until his death in 1998, may have stolen $2.2bn, and his son Abba Abacha, who was convicted of being a member of a criminal organization, was extradited from Germany in 2005 following his criminal involvements.

Switzerland began investigating the Nigeria’s former military ruler’s family in 1999 and has so far handed back about $700m to Nigeria.

“The examining magistrate sentenced Abba Abacha to a suspended jail term, and ordered the confiscation of his assets of $350m. The money is held by his criminal organization and seized through international assistance in Luxembourg and the Bahamas,” Geneva canton’s justice office said in a statement.

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