Nigeria recovers $320m looted funds

LAGOS: Nigeria's anti-graft agency said Saturday it had recovered more than 50 billion naira (320.5 million dollars/ 224.2 million euros) in looted funds and secured 70 convictions in the past year.

"The EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) has in the past 12 months...recovered funds in excess of 50 billion naira," the agency said in an official statement.

"These are recovered funds that were either stolen or misappropriated," EFCC spokesman Femi Babafemi, told AFP.

The EFCC also said that it had secured 70 convictions and was currently prosecuting 40 cases of "politically-exposed persons", including three former state governors, four ex-ministers, four legislators and a leading member of the ruling PDP party.

It did not identify those being prosecuted.

The EFCC statement repudiated a remark made by US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in Abuja on Wednesday, quoted in the local media, that the anti-graft agency "has fallen off".

"The EFCC has fallen off in the last two years. We want to see them start work again as before," ThisDay newspaper quoted her as saying during her visit to Nigeria.

"The EFCC has fallen and needs to be revived to do what it used to do, to strengthen the anti-graft war," The Guardian newspaper also quoted her as saying.

Clinton warned Nigeria that corruption was eroding the government's legitimacy and global aspirations, and offered a hand bringing peace to its oil-producing south.

"The lack of transparency and accountability has eroded the legitimacy of the government and contributed to the rise of groups that embrace violence and reject the authority of the state," she said.

The EFCC said: "her statement that the Commission has not done much in the last one year is not only misleading but a contradiction of the records of activities within the same period."

It did, however, admit "challenges from Nigerians" in the areas of prosecution and convictions of corrupt politicians and political office holders. It did not give details.