Abacha loot: Have we learnt the lessons?

DDG Weekly Column

Abacha loot: Have we learnt the lessons?

It is 24 years since the maximum ruler and dictator, General Sani Abacha, passed on in strenuous circumstances. Nevertheless, his name continues to resonate in Nigerian diplomacy, particularly in the humongous amount, codenamed ‘Abacha loot’, which the Western countries have been returning to Nigeria in instalments. Only on Tuesday last week, The PUNCH reported the return or the projected return of the sum of $23.4 million to the country in a ceremony attended by that country’s ambassador, Mary Leonard, and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN. In the case of the United States, the latest reparation brings up to $335 million returned to Nigeria in the last two years. Well known is the fact that as far back as 2018, Switzerland had reportedly returned $1 billion cumulatively as part of the loot warehoused by it. It is also hardly in doubt that up till now, the total figure of the loot returned to Nigeria so far billowed up to $3.65 billion. Were we a country famous for prudent financial management, the assets would have added up to quite something in ameliorating our current economic crisis.

As we all know, looted assets, even when they are returned, can be re-looted in a country like ours with a porous accountability regime where, for example, the former Account-General of the Federation is facing trial for the mysterious disappearance of N109 billion. That tells you that the very factors which created the Abacha loot, 24 years later are still very much with us. So, the nomenclature is a signifier for a country reeking in utter corruption and where government after government have been unable to slay the hydra in spite of several promises. For example, the current President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), came to office in 2015 with the exciting slogan “let us kill corruption before corruption kills Nigeria.” The jury is still out on how narrowly Nigeria has avoided being killed by corruption, but if the annual report of Transparency International on anti-corruption is anything to go by, optics apart, very little has changed.

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