Sani Abacha and his inexhaustible loot
By Dr. Dons Eze
Since the history of Nigeria, there is no former Head of State who has made more headlines news than the late General Sani Abacha. Even though Abacha had long died since twenty-two years ago, in 1998, yet what he did when he was in office has continued to resonate, and to make news headlines.
Thus, for the past twenty years since Nigeria returned to democracy, no year has passed without our being told about what now seems to be the inexhaustible “Abacha loot” being repatriated to Nigeria. In other words, we are inundated with stories about Nigerian money, running into billions of dollars, which they said the former Head of State, the late General Sani Abacha, stole and carted away to Europe and America.
Right now, we have not yet been told of the exact amount so far returned to Nigeria as “Abacha loot” since 1999 when the journey started, and how the money was utilized. That is to say, they have not told us what they did with the “Abacha loot” so far returned to Nigeria: whether the returned “loot” has formed part of our annual budgetary expenditures; or used to execute some specific projects; or even re-looted, that is to say, left one private pocket to enter into another private pocket. Only God knows.
For close to 15 years, the late General Sani Abacha was either in the corridors of power, or holding the levers of power. He was the one who heralded the coming of Major General Muhammadu Buhari as Military Head of State in December 1983. He later became Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Minister of Defence, etc., before climbing to the pinnacle of power as Nigeria’s Military Head of State in November 1993.
During General Sani Abacha’s rein, Nigerians held him in high esteem. They hailed him and presented him as the best that could happen to the country. They even had staged a “one million march”, to “beg” General Sani Abacha to put off his military uniform and transmute to civilian President. This was notwithstanding the fact that many Nigerians were being killed by the day by some unseen hands, and that Abacha himself, with his cronies, were busy helping themselves with the country’s resources.
But trust Nigerians, once you are still relevant, they will see you as their hero and will worship you, but as soon as you are out of power, or no longer useful, they will abandon you. Nigerians are like the Jerusalem crowd who will joyfully sing “Hosanna to the Son of David” and on his downfall, will cry “crucify him, crucify him”.
Immediately Abacha died, the table turned against him. He became a villain, despot, military dictator, and most corrupt leader Nigeria ever had. Nigerians began to reel out the many atrocities committed under his regime, the many people that were tortured or killed, and the billions of dollars the man stole when he was in power. That is life.
They have told us that the “Abacha loot” was returned from countries like Great Britain, France, the United States of America, Switzerland, South Africa, etc. But we did not know when Abacha travelled to these countries to make lodgements in their banks.
We were aware that Sani Abacha, as Military Head of State, was not a globetrotter. He rarely travelled out of Nigeria, particularly, to Europe and America.
So, how did Nigerian money got into the banks in these countries? Did General Sani Abacha, with guns in hands, invade the Central Bank of Nigeria, enter its vaults, cart away everything inside, and then vamoose to each of these countries to lodge the monies in their banks? But we did not hear that the Central Bank of Nigeria was, at any time, invaded during the Abacha regime.
We then begin to reason that perhaps, some people, somewhere, occupying some sensitive positions in Abacha government, might have helped Sani Abacha to steal our money and cart them overseas.
We also suspect that those people who helped Sani Abacha to steal our money may still be around, and perhaps, occupying some sensitive positions in the present dispensation. We equally have the feeling that the government knows each and everyone of them. But so far, we have not heard that anybody is being prosecuted for helping Abacha to steal our money.
When they told us that so so millions of dollars “Abacha loot” were recovered from one country or the other, we thought, since we are fighting corruption, that they would have let us know those who helped Abacha to steal our money and punish them accordingly to serve as deterrent, since Abacha is long dead and cannot be brought back to suffer for his crime.
In 1995, the Abacha government executed the “Ogoni-Four”, Ken Saro Wiwa, and his three other colleagues, which angered the international community. Led by the countries of Western Europe and the United States of America, the international community turned their backs on Nigeria, proclaimed the country a pariah state, and refused to do any business with it.
Ironically, the same international community, led by Western Europe and the United States of America that had proclaimed Nigeria a pariah state and refused to do business with her, later went behind to accept illicit Nigerian money from the same General Sani Abacha, to deposit them into their banks. This means, that while they run with the hare, and also hunt with the hounds. Hypocrisy!