Analysis: Tracking the unending Sani Abacha loot

by Usman Alabi

Seventeen years after the demise of General Sani Abacha, Nigeria is still grappling with the mess and the deeds of his kleptocratic rule, perhaps situation and the political happenstance of then succeeded in handing us our own Mobutu Sese Seko, for even after almost two decades of his death, his wealth and thievery has remained mind bugling and intractable, year in, year out, there seems to be no end to the “Abacha Loot”, we keep hearing fresh revelations about the hidden loot and the conspiracies and controversies surrounding the ones recovered so far. The fact still remains that though we are in a democracy, the same secrecy, conspiracy, systemic inefficiency and corruption alongside the tradition of unaccountability and docility of the people that encouraged this massive loot in the first place are still very much around, that is why the debt remains intractable and its return in bits and controversial. If we were to have a transparent system that encourages accountability at all levels of government and that allows the citizens open access to the deeds of government, there is every like hood that the shadows and the ghost of the dead General which still hunts us through his gargantuan loot would have become a thing of the past.

The intractability of the Abacha loot is in the fact that no organization, institution or even government whether domestic or international can give the exact figure of this stolen monies, it runs into billions of dollars, at least that is the general agreement of all parties and analysts involved. Let us do a little rundown of some facts and figures about the loot which is everywhere before we arrive at a conclusion. Before President Obasanjo took over power, it was reported that the Abacha family and their abettors returned about one billion US dollar to the federal government. In may 2002, in a series of agreement which spark off dissent, President Obasanjo reached a deal with the Abacha family which made it possible for Nigeria to recover $1.2billion while the Abacha family would keep $100million and bonds worth 300 million dollars.

On the nineteenth day of august, 2014, the Swiss federal office passed to Nigeria all the assets in Switzerland owned by the Abachas which runs into $500million. The then minister of finance, Mrs Iweala claimed in a Switzerland press conference that Nigeria had regained the possession of about $458million from the family and about $2billion in assets. The Swiss government also said that as at 2012, it has so far returned to Nigeria the sum of $700 dollars in addition to freezing about $640million. The Swiss government also repatriated $380million to Nigeria in March 2014 and about three months later; Liechtenstein also announced that it has returned $227million. August that same year, the United States also announced the return of $480million Abacha funds to the FG. Mind boggling figures you would say especially at a time such as this. And recently there is the case of the Swiss government giving conditionality for the return of $321million Abacha loot, perhaps because they thought we have not been prudent with the ones we have received so far. Yes, there could be controversies surrounding the exact amount of monies returned so far, as differing figures litter the space, but there are no doubts that funds have been returned and they are huge amount of money.

The question then is what has happened to this huge amount of money returned to the Nigerian government over the years, who and who or which office is responsible for these funds, what exactly has these funds been tied to, can the government point to what they had done with and still doing with the Abacha loot over the years, can they account for the monies they have received so far. From all indications, we have seen over the years that because of the enormity of this loot, it might be impossible to tract them and that is why we would keep hearing about it for a while, we are likely to still hear more revelations about the loot, history and posterity would pardon us for this loot but might not take it likely with us when it comes to what we do with the recovered funds. How has these recovered funds been spent, why the controversies, why have we all kept silent about it, who is responsible for accounting for the recovered loots, what are the projects and infrastructures that bares or bore the imprint of this recovered loot, these are questions that begs for answers.


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