Catherine Colonna’s one-day stopover in Nigeria may have laid the groundwork for a new approach by France towards Africa, emphasizing increased business activities and reduced military presence. While discussions with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu encompassed security and counterterrorism, the primary focus of her visit to Abuja was on economic matters, including the forthcoming restitution of ill-gotten assets to Nigeria.
Catherine Colonna, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, paid a visit to Nigeria on Friday, a country currently holding the presidency of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States). Discussions revolved around bilateral cooperation and regional security, particularly as insecurity in the Sahel region escalates. However, the most significant announcement during this 24-hour visit could well be the thawing and the forthcoming restitution of ill-gotten assets to Nigeria. Catherine Colonna formally conveyed France’s decision to President Bola Tinubu.
“France will be able to return to Nigeria a portion of what is commonly referred to as ‘ill-gotten assets,’ which were misappropriated from the Nigerian people by the former President General Abacha and his family. A portion of the embezzled funds, which had been frozen in France since 2021, has completed the judicial procedures, and now everything is settled. We can return to Nigeria approximately 150 million dollars, through exchanges with the Nigerian government and donations, to align with the projects that meet the priorities of the Nigerian government. I want to emphasize that these will be donations, of course, as this money was taken from the Nigerian people. Therefore, it is only natural that we return it to them.”
Booming Economic Exchanges
Economic exchanges between France and Nigeria have doubled over the past decade, and according to Catherine Colonna, the potential for further growth knows no bounds. “Our objective for the coming years is to significantly increase our investments in Nigeria and, if you will, the investments of Nigerian businesses in France.”