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France to return Abacha’s $150m loot

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By Abraham Adekunle

This is one of the series of repatriated loots of the former head of state.

The French Government announced on November 1, 2023, that it is set to return $150 million of the late General Sani Abacha loot. Since the death of Abacha, who was Nigeria military leader from 1993 to 1998, the country has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars heaped abroad. Visiting France Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Catherine Colonna, who disclosed this in Abuja, said that she has informed President Bola Tinubu about the planned return of the seized fund.

Colonna noted that the stolen funds will be returned to the country in the form of grants, and discussions will soon be opened with the Nigerian government on where to invest the funds. She revealed that she had also informed President Tinubu that in response to the request submitted by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Justice, and in agreement with the US Administration, France will return to Nigeria the assets stolen from the Nigerian people by General Sani Abacha and his family, that have been frozen in France since 2021.

Current goal is to increase mutual investments between France and Nigeria.

According to the priorities of the Nigerian government, the French government will start discussions with the Nigerian administration in order to allocate these $150 million to development projects benefiting the population. The minister noted that France has invested over €10 billion in Nigeria in the last ten years, with over 100 French companies doing business in the country and creating over 10,000 jobs. She said, “They do not simply sell French products; they invest in Nigeria’s economy, creating jobs, factories, farms and vocational training centers.”

She further said that France goal for the coming years is to further increase these investments in Nigeria and also the investments of Nigerian companies in France. The French Government also invests directly in Nigeria, through financing from the French Development Agency (AFD, Agence française de développement). As such, since 2010, the European nation has mobilized close to three billion euros to support the emergence of Nigeria. She added that AFD is carrying out projects in 26 out of the 36 states of Nigeria.

FG has been recovering Abacha’s loots before the return of democracy.

However, this is not the only time that General Sani Abacha’s loot has been recovered. The former head of state trends on social media every now and then. His loot is an indeterminate amount of money allegedly stolen from the country and in banks and countries around the world by the former military dictator. The loots have been repatriated from most countries in Europe and America since Abacha’s death in 1998. According to United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, the amount of money stolen by Abacha and his cronies which have been repatriated to Nigeria by the U.S has hit over $334.7 million.

Many Nigerians humorously wondered how Abacha was able to stash up so much in foreign countries. His stash has produced repatriation during each tenure of the president of Nigeria since the return of democracy in 1999. In fact, recoveries started before Obasanjo became president. But foreign governments have always made it clear that one of the major conditions for repatriating the looted assets is that the Federal Government must deploy the funds in funding infrastructure.

Some instances of Abacha’s loot recoveries since 1999.

During the Abdulsalami era in 1999, $750 million was recovered. Under President Olusegun Obasanjo, $1.2 billion was recovered in 2002. Another $149 million from Jersey Island (UK) was recovered in 2003; then $500 million recovered in 2004 from Switzerland and another $458 recovered in 2005 from Switzerland. During Jonathan’s tenure, $1 billion was recovered in 2012 and $380 million in 2015, both tranches from Switzerland. The Jonathan administration also recovered $227 million from Liechtenstein in 2014 and $48 million from the United States the same year. During President Buhari’s time, the government recovered $322 million from Switzerland in 2017 and $311 million from Jersey Island, United Kingdom in February 2020.

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