ABACHA LOOT – Switzerland has announced on Monday that it will return about $321 million public funds stolen by former Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha.
According to a report, the money, originally deposited in Luxembourg, was confiscated by a Swiss court in late 2014 and in March last year, the two states signed an agreement on its repatriation.
A statement released by the Swiss government reads:
“In accordance with policy on repayment of national assets taken illegally, Switzerland has agreed with Nigeria and the World Bank to return nearly US$321 for the benefit of the Nigerian people.”
Late General Sani Abacha who was Nigeria’s military ruler from 1993 to 1998 when he died reportedly embezzled $2.2 billion from Nigeria’s central bank in what the United States has called “brazen acts of kleptocracy”.
The Swiss statement said these funds were frozen in a legal procedure by Geneva’s public prosecutor against Abba Abacha, Sani Abacha’s son. It also said the return of the funds would be supported and supervised by the World Bank, adding that the move should “strengthen social security for the poorest Nigerians”.
When the agreement was announced, Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter had said the fight against corruption was “one of Switzerland’s priorities”.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has led a purge of corruption since taking office in 2015, vowing to recover what he said were “mind-boggling” sums of money stolen over decades.
Abacha’s loot became a media sensational due to the large sum that was looted out of the country. He was known as a man of “few words and deadly actions” and he demonstrated this as head of state with one of the most brutal regimes Nigeria has ever had. There was a massive crackdown on the media, civil rights groups and pro-democracy campaigns.
Despite his feared regime, late Abacha is described as a good economic manager who stabilised exchange rate at N22/$1 but the unofficial rate was N80/$1. He was instrumental in the restoration of peace and democracy in Sierra Leone and Liberia after years of civil wars.
Abacha’s death is shrouded in mystery: the most popular version is that he died in the midst of Indian prostitutes flown in from Dubai but the official version is that he died of heart attack. A more likely story is that he was “eliminated” to end the political crisis in Nigeria.