The French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Ms Catherine Colonna, has assured the federal government that the remaining tranche of the country’s stolen assets by the late former Military Head of State, Sanni Abacha, would be returned to the country.
Colonna gave the assurance on Friday, during her visit to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, at the State House in Abuja.
The Foreign Minister revealed that she was in Nigeria for the first time, said: “I also informed President Tinubu that, in response to the request submitted by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Justice, and in agreement with the US Administration that France will return to Nigeria the assets stolen from the Nigerian people by General Sani Abacha and his family, that have been frozen in France since 2021.
“We will start discussions with the Nigerian administration to allocate these 150 million US dollars to development projects benefiting the population, according to the priorities of the Nigerian government.”
Colonna had earlier met with her Nigerian counterpart, Mr Yusuf Tuggar and reaffirmed his country’s commitment to strengthen existing partnerships in terms of economy, trade, culture, development and humanitarian issues.
The growing threat of terrorism, the deterioration of the humanitarian situation, as well at the proliferation of coups d’Etat in the West African region were also deliberated upon and the Minister reaffirmed its clear and strong support for ECOWAS’ efforts to protect both security and democracy in the region.
The Minister further said: “I came to meet with the new government and to reaffirm our will to strengthen even more our bilateral cooperation in all areas.
“In the economic sector, we have greatly reinforced our partnership over the last years, but we can and want to go even further. Nigeria, the « Giant of Africa », the continent’s leading economy, is also France’s first trade partner in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“French foreign direct investments in Nigeria have doubled over the last ten years and now exceed 10 billion euros. More than 100 French companies are already working here.
“They do not simply sell French products: they invest in Nigeria’s economy, creating jobs (10,000 jobs as we speak), factories, farms and vocational training centres. Our goal for the coming years is to further increase these investments in Nigeria, but also the investments of Nigerian companies in France.
“The French Government also invests directly in Nigeria through financing from the French Development Agency (AFD, Agence française de développement).
Since 2010, we have mobilized close to 3 billion euros to support the emergence of Nigeria.
“AFD is carrying out projects in 26 out of the 36 States of Nigeria. We are financing infrastructure, rural roads, marketplaces, urban transportation and water supply, but also a large number of SMEs and local start-up incubators. We are also investing more and more in vocational training for the youth.
“Our main priority for the coming years is to support even further cultural and creative industries in Nigeria. They are already recognized worldwide and have a huge potential to be developed.
“We support creators and entrepreneurs in the fields of animation, video games, music, fashion and design, to help them tap into international markets. I signed this morning with the Minister of Finance an investment agreement for an amount of 100 million euros, for the I-Dice program, through which AFDB is going to support Nigerian entrepreneurs in digital and creative industries.
“We provide financing, expertise, but also exposure in France and our outstanding cultural network in Nigeria, including the French Institute in Abuja and 10 Alliances Françaises.”