Yet another Abacha loot

FOR the umpteenth time, the loot allegedly stashed away by the usually dark-goggled maximum ruler and dictator,  the late General Sani Abacha, recently returned to the front burner when a bank account containing 211 million pounds (approximately N82 billion) was traced to him. The money was recovered and subsequently confiscated in Jersey Channel Islands on the request of the United States government. Abacha was said to have laundered the money through the United States into Channel Islands before his death in 1998.

According to a report by Metro UK, the money was put in accounts held in Jersey Channel Islands  by Doraville Properties Corporation, a British Virgin Islands company. The report said that the money was being held by the government until authorities in the country, the United States and Nigeria came to an agreement on how it should be distributed. It was gathered that for now, Jersey Islands would keep the loot in its Criminal Confiscation Fund, which could be used to pay for a variety of projects on the Island. It will be recalled that not too long ago, a similarly circumstanced national wealth under the same tag was repatriated from Swiss banks which stipulated certain conditions that must be fulfilled for the government to lay any claim to the loot, part of which was to ensure that it was distributed among the poorest of the poor in the country.

Nigeria has descended into the abyss of poverty, becoming the world’s poverty headquarters, but Jersey Islands ironically has its eyes on the funds stashed away in its coffers and available to fund projects for its citizens while Nigerians are languishing in abject poverty, confronted and indeed ensnared by the full implications of infrastructure deficit and security lapses. What actually boggles the mind is the self-evident fact that nobody knows the actual amount that was stolen by the late dictator as only estimates are being bandied about by media houses. The $2.2 billion estimated as stolen from Nigeria’s coffers may actually be a conservative figure. New looted funds are still being discovered even though Abacha died 21 years ago.

It can be argued without any controversy that the development of the African continent has largely been hobbled by its kleptomaniac leadership irrespective of the manner of its ascendancy: through the ballot box or via military coups. Ironically, many of these thieving leaders are canonised and revered by the subsequent leaderships which inherited their positions after their demise or ouster. Apart from having so many national monuments named after him, for instance, the late General Abacha still enjoys the fond memories of President Muhammadu Buhari, who heads an administration which prides itself as one that is currently fighting corruption tooth and nail. Yet, many years after Abacha’s demise, so much of his stolen wealth is still being repatriated from various havens across the globe.

It boggles the mind that a Head of State could have such an unrestrained access to the public till through the Central Bank, an institution manned by professionals. Granted that maximum rulers can rarely be resisted by lesser mortals, but still, records of his massive withdrawals could at least have been kept by the country’s treasurers. Or could they too have been helping themselves to the public till all the while? To put it mildly, a situation in which nobody has the accurate figures of what has been looted from the public till leaves so much to be desired. It even raises doubts about the much touted available human resources. Where are they?

To think that such a looter, once at the helm in Nigeria, is still viewed as an icon of leadership by the current president is gravely disconcerting; in fact, even to the point of despair. The credibility of the corrective and restorative agenda under his watch is certainly in doubt. It becomes imperative to ask questions regarding what the Federal Government has been doing with the recovered loot, which the receiving and warehousing countries had previously used to develop their infrastructure while the legitimate owners languished in abject poverty.

Also, is there any guarantee that this horrible spate of unconscionable looting has abated? In the years to come, will tales of monumental theft of public funds be told in relation to those in power now or not? Without an institutionalised,  holistic approach, the fight against looting and other forms of corruption will remain vague, tepid and ineffectual.