$3.3bn Abacha Loot: Between Obasanjo, Jonathan and Buhari
In the last 20 years, the Federal Government has recovered $3.3 billion from countries where former Head of State, the late General Sani Abacha, stashed the country’s proceeds from oil sales. The recovery hits N1.2 trillion when converted to our local currency, an amount, going by the 2018 budget is enough to fund critical agencies like health, defense and water resources for the year.
In the 2018 budget, the sum of N576 billion was allocated to Defense; N356 billion was voted for Health, and N155 billion was earmarked for Water Resources, making a total of N1.087 trillion. These three sectors are vital to the country, considering the insecurity in the North-East and North-Central, the collapse of the country’s healthcare system and the acute water shortage in many parts of the country which has led to cholera outbreaks and environmental threats as a result of indiscriminate digging of boreholes in urban centres.
The recovery of Abacha loot actually began in 1998 when former Head of State Abdulsalami Abubakar recovered some $750 million in cash in different currencies from the Abacha family. This was followed by a series of recoveries under the Obasanjo regime. In 2000, the Swiss government returned $64 million; in 2002 there was a deal entered between the Abacha family and President Obasanjo which led to the recovery of $1.2 billion, and in 2003, the sum of $160 million was repatriated from Jersey, British Isles. In all, $2.057 billion was recovered under the Obasanjo regime
That same year the Swiss government returned another $88 million to the Obasanjo administration. In 2005, the Swiss returned another $461 million and in 2006 another $44 million was recovered from Switzerland.
In 2014, under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, the sum of $227 million was returned from Liechtenstein, while in 2017 under President Muhammadu Buhari, the sum of $320 million was recovered from Switzerland. There are reports that a lot of the loot is still being pursued in the United States, France, and the United Kingdom.
How has the money been utilised? This is not clear. Former Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo Iweala claimed that $250 million out of it went into the fight against Boko Haram, with arms purchase. The current government is using $320 million to support 302,000 small traders in Nigerian.