Former President Olusegun Obasanjo
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo

The top scandal in Nigeria this week could arguably be the once surrounding a plan by the Muhammadu Buhari government to misappropriate the money being returned to Nigeria by US authorities.

Bloomberg reported that there was a plot by President Buhari to pay a top official of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, $100 million from the $380 million which the authorities in Jersey were repatriated to Nigeria.

Sani Abacha Abacha Loot, Nigeria, Switzerland, Disburse, Juliet Ibekaku-Nwagwu
Late General Sani Abacha

The funds are a small fraction of monies looted from Nigeria during the brutal reign of late military dictator Sani Abacha. According to Transparency International, Abacha, who ruled Nigeria with an iron-fist between 1993 to 1998, looted at least $5 billion during those years.

Ironically, the late dictator also waged an anti-corruption campaign during his reign in which he mainly targeted fraudsters and bankers. Buhari served in his government as the head of the powerful Petroleum Trust Fund.

The APC official is the current two-term governor of Kebbi State, Abubakar Bagudu. He was an associate of the Late Sani Abacha who facilitated the laundering of billions of dollars stolen from Nigeria.

In a swift reaction to the story, Abubakar Malami, the federal attorney general denied that there was any plan by the government to hand $100 million to Governor Bagudu from the returning Abacha loot.

But it has been revealed that the Buhari government did sign an agreement in 2018 to return the money to him.

Investigations also revealed that the uncomfortable agreement between the Nigerian government and the family of the late Sani Abachi to allow the family to keep $100 million from a $1 billion corruptly acquired wealth dates back to 2002.

The immoral agreement was signed with the Olusegun Obasanjo administration to obtain the now Kebbi governor’s co-operation for the return of $1 billion which was “held in trust by Bagudu” for the Sani Abacha family, using his firm, Blue Companies.

On the strength of that agreement, an indicted money launderer now lays claim to $100 million of the Abacha loot.

The Americans fear that Bagudu’s friendship with President Muhammadu Buhari would make way for him to receive a return of the ill-gotten wealth once the regime lays hands on the Abacha loot.

Abacha Loot
President Muhammadu Buhari with Kebbi state Governor Abubakar Bagudu in Aso Rock | State House Photo

A Deal’s A Deal

Bagudu has not hidden his claim to the money.

In fact, the Kebbi says shamelessly declared that he “has done nothing wrong” in demanding the payment from the federal government.

According to him that the payment is included in the agreement he signed for the Obasanjo administration to ensure his co-cooperation in the return of the Abacha loot.

Documents obtained by Daily Trust, a local newspaper, quotes Bagudu as accusing the “media of sensationalizing the case”. He also alleged that the American authorities are using this clause as an easy excuse to withhold Nigeria’s money abroad.

He also boasted that none of his assets had been frozen in Nigeria, as at 2013, and as such, he had no “criminal liability” in the matter.

Daily Trust reported that the controversial agreement was accompanied by a presidential statement in respect of Global Settlements between Bagudu and his affiliates and the Federal Republic of Nigeria signed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on August 18, 2003. The letter listed Bagudu’s affiliates as David Liewellyn Jones, Smith and Tyres Limited, Robinson International, and Bagudu’’s wife, children, brothers, and sisters.

‘Hardest Decision’

When General Olusegun Obasanjo became president in 1999, he made it a priority to hunt down the money stolen from Nigeria during the regime of Sani Abacha.

According to a source who worked closely on the case at the time, the Nigerian government hit a number of stumbling blocks in laying claim to the funds which had been laundered under various companies using associates like Bagudu. Huge amounts had been kept in the Swiss banking system.

“The president was sold the idea of a compromise which would see the Abacha family keep a small percentage of the looted funds, in return for their co-operation in unlocking the investments so they could be returned to Nigeria,” the source, who was a high-ranking official in the Obasanjo regime at the time told The Trent on Sunday, February 23, 2020.

“President Olusegun Obasanjo has said that the compromise deal the Federal Government reached with the family of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, whereby the family would refund over $1 billion or 80 per cent of their liquid asset in exchange for freedom from litigation, is one of the hardest decisions of his life,” ThisDay reported in May 2002.

Obasanjo told Tell Magazine that he essentially had to do what he had to do to get the stolen funds returned to the country.

“I know that the Abacha family hadn’t legitimately done any work to deserve US$ 100 million,” the president was quoted as saying.

“Our lawyers came and said: Well you have a choice to make. We got to a situation where we can get about US$ 1.2 billion.

“But should I go ahead to recover US$ 1.2 billion of Nigeria’s money or go to tell Nigerians that we are fighting this case and 25, 30 years from now you wouldn’t get anything.

“So I told the lawyer ‘let me think about it because it wasn’t an easy decision for me,” the retired military general said.

Obasanjo also lamented that the Abacha family was able to pay lawyers 12 times what the Nigerian government paid lawyers to handle to matter. The government paid $1 million as legal fees while the Abachas reportedly paid their lawyers $12 million.

“They were able to pay that because it is not their money. It is your money and my money, it is Nigeria’s money,” the president said at the time.

Fast forward to 2020, and the confessed money launderer, Governor Bagudu of Kebbi State is laying claim to $110 million. According to him the interest earned on the funds promised to him is also his.


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