Ten years ago, President Muhammadu Buhari, who served as the Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) under the late former military Head of State, Gen. Sanni Abacha denied that his former boss looted the treasury, but his government on Tuesday confirmed the repatriation of Abacha loot.
The Ministry of Finance has announced that $322.5 million was returned to Nigeria by the Swiss Government as part of funds looted by the late Abacha.
In June 2008, Buhari who had just lost election as presidential candidate of the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) gave Abacha a clean bill of health in Kano after the remembrance prayers marking 10 years of his death.
He said there was no basis for accusing Abacha of corruption.
“Ten years without the late Abacha, the said allegations remain silent because there are no facts. All the allegations levelled against the personality of the late Gen Sanni Abacha will remain allegations.
It is 10 years now, things should be over by now,” Buhari said then according to newspaper reports.
He added that rather than maligning Abacha, the late ruler deserved to be praised for initiating developmental ideas that moved the country forward.
Buhari alongside his successors, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar made this claim barely a week after Abacha’s widow, Mrs. Maryam said there was no basis for accusing her husband of corruption. Buhari has not recounted his claim since then.
But Abacha has been accused of stealing nearly £5 billion while in office, out of which over $1 billion has reportedly been recovered from various sources around the world.
On Tuesday, the Federal government through the office of the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, confirmed the release of $322.5 million in a statement issued by her Media Adviser, Oluyinka Akintunde.
The minister said the money was paid to the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria on December 18, 2017.
Also in 2003, the government announced that a total of 22.5 million euro Abacha loot was recovered.
The then Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke said a total of 175 million euro was also recovered from the family of the late head of state following a confiscation order by the Supreme Court of Liechtenstein.
The Swiss government as at December 2002 said that it had so far returned to Nigeria $700 million stolen by the late dictator and deposited in several Swiss banks.
The Guardian called the special adviser on media and publicity to President Buhari, Femi Adesina.
“I am in London, please call the spokesperson to the Minister of Finance,” he said.
Mr. Akintunde declined to answer the question as to whether the president has recounted the claim or not.
”We have released a statement on the reparation of the money, and that is all we can say for now,” he said.