Wednesday, August 5, 2020 8:18 am
By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Even in death General Sani Abacha keeps donating money to Nigeria. No ancestor has ever been this good to the Giant of Africa. What a benevolent ancestor, even though some people refer to him as an evil spirit!
The staggering sums of money stashed away in the vaults of the Swiss banks and sundry safe havens all over the world would have built up this country into a marvelous wonderland that could make Hollywood and New York look more ancient than Abacha’s scarified face!
The pity is that the re-looting of the Abacha loot is now without trace.
In one of his short stories, “Clean Sweep Ignatius”, the British author Jeffrey Archer told the story of a Nigerian Finance Minister, Ignatius Agabi, who came with the promise to cleanse the country of all corruption.
The determined Minister Agabi went to the Swiss bank to uncover Nigeria’s money stashed away there.
He ordered the Swiss bank manager to disclose the names of the looters of Nigerian money hidden in his bank.
The Swiss manager refused to be intimidated, stressing that he would rather die than reveal the secret of the bank.
Agabi then brought out a gun and put it to the head of the Swiss bank man but the dogged banker still refused to reveal the secret vaults.
Minister Agabi then became convinced that the man can be trusted after defying all his threats.
He immediately brought out his briefcase packed full with five million dollars and promptly asked the bank manager to help him bank his own looted funds!
Talk of corruption fighters of good old Nigeria. Jeffrey Archer knows us too well.
Abacha was a hardened corruption fighter in his time, and there is the contention in certain quarters that if he had not died, nothing would have been heard of the looted funds.
It is against this grim background that the re-looting of the Abacha loot may need a death or two for it to be revealed to the Nigerian public.
The looting of Nigeria happens o be a cabalistic family matter.
Abba Abacha, one of the sons of General Abacha, once appeared before a court in Geneva, Switzerland, to defend an earlier appeal against his conviction of “plundering state resources and involvement in criminal organizations.”
The chequered trial was in connection with the $2.2 billion Abacha siphoned from Nigerian coffers from 1993 to 1998.
Abba Abacha was eventually ordered to repay the sum of $350 million by a Swiss court. The court said the money was being held by criminal organizations and was collected with international assistance from Luxembourg and the Bahamas.
Abba was given a suspended custodial sentence of 360 days by the investigating judge of the Canton of Geneva, Yves Aeschlimann.
According to the Swiss authorities, they pursued Abba for six years before extraditing him from Germany in 2005.
The Geneva judge Aeschlimann condemned a Monaco-based financial intermediary, whose name was not given, for supporting the Abacha organization.
The financial bagman was required to pay $9.9 million, a sum which corresponded to the illicit gains he allegedly made while handling stolen funds.
General Abacha, in memoriam, stood accused of having stolen about five billion dollars of state funds for himself and his family during his time in power.
It was in 1999 that the regime of then President Olusegun Obasanjo approached Swiss justice officials for help in repatriating some of the money that had ended up in Swiss accounts.
The Swiss then blocked some $700 million of it before giving it back to Nigeria in installments.
This was based on an accord signed by both Switzerland and Nigeria.
However, in a move that appeared tacky, in 2002 the Obasanjo regime said that it had struck a deal with the Abacha family by which the government recovered about $1.2 billion while the Abachas were allowed to inherit $100 million as per bonds worth $300 million.
In the view of Obasanjo, the decision was taken because if the government chose to pursue litigation to its logical end the case would drag on for several years with no guarantee of recovering the looted funds.
During his time as Nigerian Vice-President Atiku Abubakar tagged the Abacha looting as “direct stealing.”
According to records, the Abacha monies were principally stashed away in four major countries: Switzerland, Jersey Island in United Kingdom, United States and Liechtenstein.
Abacha’s Nigeria was a pariah state but these countries were busy collecting Abacha’s Nigerian monies!
It is on record that President Muhammadu Buhari stated that Abacha was not corrupt.
Even so, Buhari’s government recovered $322 million from Switzerland in 2017 and $308 million from Jersey Island, United Kingdom in February 2020.
Thus far, about $2.6 billion of the Abacha loot has been repatriated from Switzerland while some other recoveries were made from UK and USA.
The pity is Nigerians are crying that the Abacha loot is being re-looted as they cannot see any benefits coming to them.
It all comes down to the fact that literally all non-looting Nigerians would want the Abacha loot to be transformed to a weapon of mass palliatives.