Abacha Loot: How Much Did Late General Sani Abacha Actually Steal?

The Federal Government recently released another $311 million late General Sani Abacha loot to the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) to fund its activities.

The questions many Nigerian have been asking are the total amount the former Military Head of State siphoned from the government coffers.

Late General Sani Abacha, during his time as the military president, allegedly stole billions of dollars and other foreign currencies stashed in foreign accounts.

Who is General Sani Abacha?

Gen. Abacha was born on 20 September 1943 and died on 8 June 1998. The military general was the military head of state of Nigeria from 1993 until his death.

Abacha, who was also a former Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Defence Staff, and Minister of Defence, became the first Nigerian soldier to attain the rank of a full military general without skipping a single rank.

Gen Sani Abach died on June 8 1998

His rule saw the achievement of several economic feats and also recorded human rights abuses and several political assassinations.

Corruptions in Abacha Era

According to reports, unprecedented economic achievements were recorded during the Abacha era, but it coincided with the rapid expansion of corruption.

One of such instance was Abacha’s national security adviser, Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo, who was accused by the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo to have played a central role in the looting and transferring money to overseas accounts, with the involvement of Abacha’s son, Mohammed Abacha and best friend Alhaji Mohammed M. Sada.

According to a preliminary report published by the Abdulsalam Abubakar transitional government, Gen Abacha told Ismaila Gwarzo to provide fake national security funding requests, which Abacha approved.

Whenever the funds get sent in cash or travelers’ cheques by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to Gwarzo, he will take them to Abacha’s house. Sada then launders the money to offshore accounts. It was reported that about $1.4 billion in cash was delivered in this way.

How much did Abacha steal?

A list of the ten most self-enriching leaders in the previous two decades was released in the year 2004 in order of the amount allegedly stolen.

Abacha became the number four on the list with him and his family allegedly embezzling between $1 billion – $5 billion.

The United States Department of Justice in August 2014 announced the forfeiture of US$480 million. This is the largest in its history to the Nigerian government after the Jersey Island discovered over $267 million in funds allegedly laundered through the U.S. banking system and deposited in an account.

Both governments then completed a civil asset forfeiture against the funds, and they were divided between them.

The funds recovered were principally stashed away in four major countries: Switzerland, Jersey Island in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Liechtenstein.

Rt. Gen Abdulsalami was able to recover $750 million in 1999, while former President Obasanjo administration recovered $1.2 billion in 2002.

Also, during Jonathan’s administration, $1 billion was recovered in 2012 and $380 million in 2015, with both tranches coming from Switzerland. The administration further recovered $227 million from Liechtenstein in 2014 and $48 million from the United States the same year.

The present government also recovered $322 million from Switzerland in 2017 and $308 million from Jersey Island, United Kingdom, in February 2020.

Switzerland tops the list of recoveries with a total recovery of about $2.6 billion while the other recoveries came from the UK and the USA.

From recent findings, Abacha allegedly siphoned over $1.5bn.

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