By YUSUF MOHAMMED
Twenty one years after the death of Nigerian dictator, General Sani Abacha, his loots are still being discovered in various parts of the world. Since he died on June 8, 1998, a year has hardly gone by without money being discovered foreign accounts and traced to the general.
When will this come to an end and how much did he really loot from the Nigeria’s treasury? These are questions Nigerians ask but fear to answer. Last week, the name Abacha was trending and as usual, it was for money linked to him. A bank account containing 221 million pounds (approximately N82bn) was traced to him.
The money was recovered and subsequently confiscated in Jersey, Channels Islands on the request of the United States of American government.
Late Abacha was said to have laundered the money through the U.S. into the Channel Islands before his death in 1998. According to a report by Metro UK on Thursday, the money was put in accounts held in Jersey by Doraville Properties Corporation, a British Virgin Islands company.
Since this recent discovery, there have been talks about how much Abacha looted in the traditional and social media. The latest discovery set tongues wagging and on June 8, the day Abacha died, many Nigerians took to various platforms to air their views on Abacha. Most of them were not pleasant views.
This really got to the Abacha’s as two of his children had to respond to the insults on their late father. Mahmoud Abacha, one of his sons was the first to respond. He took to Facebook to lambast those calling his father all sorts of names. Mahmoud who seems not to believe the report of the loot linked to his father prayed that God will expose those behind the act.
He wrote: “Rest in perfect everlasting peace, baba. We love you. Let your haters continue to drown in the evil pit of hatred until it consumes them ad infinitum. May God expose those behind the so-called ‘Abacha loot’ as they remain quiet when his name is being thrown in the dirt and he cannot defend himself because he is dead! Amin. Continue to rest in peace, you will always remain the pride of Africa.”
The next was Gumsu Abacha who is the most vocal of all Abacha’s children. She has over 200,000 followers on Instagram. She simply said “they are only jealous of us.”
That was not the first time Gumsu would openly defend her later father as she did that a few years ago when she attacked Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka.
She slammed Soyinka over the comments made about her father, late General Sani Abacha. She reacted to statements made by Soyinka at the national honours investiture for heroes of democracy. She wrote on Facebook. “Wole Soyinka oya na! Over to you! Wicked old hawk! Your hate for my father shall kill you. Olori buruku! mad cow.”
It is obvious that the hurtful words of people actually get to them, hence the responses.
“This is one of the reasons why one should try to leave a good legacy behind. I hope Buhari is learning from this,” social commentator Nurudeen Lawal said.
He continued “If he does not change his ways, his children and grand children may bear the brunt.”
Sani Abacha was a Nigerian Army officer and dictator who served as the de facto head of state of Nigeria from 1993 until his death in 1998. He is also the first Nigerian soldier to attain the rank of a four star General without skipping a single rank.
Abacha is very popular in core northern Nigerian states, especially Kano State, Borno State, Kaduna State and Sokoto State. In tailor shops his pictures could be seen on the wall due to his fashion style. Many still decorate their vehicles with his posters and praise him for the various projects and for bringing back security to the region.
In the southern part of the country, it is a different story. There is still a disdain for the late military ruler. This can be attributed to the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa after being found guilty of killing four Ogoni leaders and also the incarceration of Chief M.K.O Abiola.
Bello Shagari who is a grandson of late Shehu Shagari president of Nigeria from 1979 to 1983 sees the bashing Abacha receives as a South versus North thing. To him, the South Western media are not being fair to Abacha and other leaders of the North. The young man took to his page on Twitter and Instagram to express his displeasure.
He wrote: “In as much as I hate the North/South confrontations, which is more or less a distraction to our National progress, dragging the names of Northern leaders to the mud is one example but the man remains widely popular in the north.
“There was never a time in Nigeria when we had economic stability and progress like Abacha’s regime. And that is because he had to “force” it and there were causalities of course. The same can be said about security. Both problems are now things we are struggling with in Nigeria.
“Meanwhile, there are so many controversies surrounding him including the so called ‘Abacha loot.’ Can anyone tell me who first called it that? Anyway, it can hardly be defended because no one can be certain of a different intention except those who were involved in the process.
“But it was widely reported that Abacha himself is not the signatory to those bank accounts according to A-Mustapha and that stakeholders came together to arrange for those monies to be saved in case of a rainy day, as Nigerians didn’t have a smooth foreign relations with the West.”
Many Nigerians disagree with him. They say he is only attempting to rewrite history because of his closeness to the Abachas. A former national secretary of Odua People’s Congress, Kayode Ogundamisi replied him by saying: “The same Sani Abacha – the one sending credit alert from the grave over 20 years after his death? If he had invested 1% of his loot in developing the North, just maybe a certain Boko Haram leader would have been a Doctor. Abacha was evil to the North and the South.”
In 1998 soon after his death, under Military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, $750m was discovered. More monies were discovered when Olusegun Obasanjo was president from 1999 to 2007. In year 2000, 1.2 billion US dollars was linked to Abacha in a Swizz account.
In 2003, $288m was discovered; 2005, $772m was discovered in Swizz account in Switzerland was fully repatriated. In 2008, $44m was discovered in a Swiss account. In 2014, $480m was discovered in the U.S. and the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it as largest forfeiture in the DOJ’s history: the return of $480 million to the Nigerian government. In 2017, $322.5m was recovered from Switzerland by the Muhammadu Buhari administration. Most recent discovery was 211 million pounds in the United States.
By the time Abacha died in office in June 1998, he had reportedly stolen an estimated $.2.2bn from the country’s coffers. His then National Security Advsier, Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo, his son, Mohammed Abaca and best friend, Alhaji Mohammed Sada, were alleged to have played a central role in the looting and transfer of money to offshore accounts.
While people hail the government for recovering Abacha’s stolen funds, they are asking what the government is using the monies for. The Peoples Democratic Party said the return of stolen money traced to the late army general must be worrisome to President Muhammadu Buhari. The PDP recalled that the President had once defended the late head of state by saying he didn’t loot money.
The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, said there was nothing on ground to indicate that the looted funds would not be stolen again.
He said, “It is sad that we continue to hear about the return of stolen funds by the former head of state. Funny though, the President had described the former head of state as a saint, saying he never stole anything.
“The continued return of the stolen money must be a source of worry to the President and the Federal Government that the man they had proclaimed as a saint stole to that extent. I am, however, worried that there is nothing to indicate that the money will not disappear again. There is no monument on ground to tell us what repatriated cash was spent on. So, the recently announced stolen funds may also end same way.”