A total of 22.5 million euro has been recovered by the Federal Government from the confiscation on money laundered by General Sani Abacha.

Nigeria’s military Head of State between November 17, 1993 and June 8, 1998, Sani Abacha

Speaking at the ministerial platform in Abuja, the 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.

Mr Adoke listed measures taken by the federal government to reform the nation’s criminal justice system.

General Abacha had ruled Nigeria as a military Head of State between November 17, 1993 and June 8, 1998, when he died suddenly of a heart attack. As a result, General Abdulsalami Abubakar became the head of state and within a short time, he re-established democracy in Nigeria, arranging for general elections that resulted in the emergence of Olusegun Obasanjo assuming the presidency as the democratically elected leader of the country in 1999.

Before Mr Obasanjo took office, Mr Abubakar’s government had delivered a clear message that the late Abacha had looted huge sums, and they had to be restored. Members of the Abacha family and some of their accomplice then ‘voluntarily’ returned about $1 billion to the Federal Government. In 2002, the Obasanjo administration tentatively came to an agreement with the Abacha family to return another $1 billion out of the $1.1 billion that had been identified, traced and frozen, with the quid pro quo that the Abachas would be allowed to keep balance that had been assessed not to be of criminal origin.

The arrangement was not well received by the masses. Although the proposal caused a massive outcry for seeming to reward the theft of public funds, it was subsequently rejected by the late dictator’s son, Mohammed Abacha, who continued to maintain that all the assets in question were legitimately acquired. The highest sum that had in the past been traced to the family ranged from $3 billion to $5 billion, which includes money allegedly derived from misappropriation of funds from the Central Bank of Nigeria, bribes received from multi-nationals, among others.

The Swiss government last December said that it has so far returned to Nigeria the sum of $700 million stolen by the late dictator and deposited in several Swiss banks. In addition to freezing about $640 million, the Swiss judicial authorities handling the case have also indicted Mohammed Abacha and Atiku Bagudu under Swiss legislation regarding money laundering, fraud and taking part in a criminal organisation.