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‘Abacha loot’ is media creation, he ‘deposited’ funds in foreign countries to buy arms for peacekeeping – Bamaiyi

Former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi (rtd), has disclosed that what Nigerians refer to as ‘Abacha loot’ was media creation, saying that the late military Head of State, deposited funds to some ‘friendly’ foreign countries to enable Nigeria buy arms and ammunition for peacekeeping missions in the West African region.
Bamaiyi spoke on Thursday, March 30, in Abuja at the launch of his tell-all book ‘Vindication of a General.’ Excerpt from the memoir reads:

“It is in this same spirit that I feel obliged to offer some insight into what has come to be known as ‘Abacha loot.’ A lot has been said about the Abacha loot. It is the sexiest story that Nigerian journalists make from headlines. The social media is equally awash with all manners of comments, including some expensive joke about Abacha. But even more importantly, the subject of money supposedly looted by the late General Abacha is a key issue in Nigeria’s diplomatic relationship with many Western countries. I am not in a position to defend Abacha or suggest he did not tamper with the wealth of Nigeria, because I was not in a position to know how as a Head of State he handled Nigeria’s funds.”

The book further discloses that during the Abacha era, there was an agreement to deposit Nigeria’s funds in foreign countries that were friendly to the nation. The decision to deposit funds in some foreign accounts, according to the book, was hinged on the hostile disposition of some Western countries against Nigeria’s interests.

“I am however in a position to say what I know led to the transfer of funds to some countries in Europe and may be other countries outside Europe. It is a known fact that Nigerian was virtually abandoned by some of its traditional Western allies during the Abacha government and it became difficult for the country to purchase arms and ammunition to conduct operations in Liberia and Sierra Leone at that time, especially after the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa. In the light of the increasingly battered international image of Nigeria and even references to Nigeria in academic circle as a “rogue” state, some decisions had to be taken if Nigeria was to continue to play its role as a stabilizer in the West African region, a role very much valued by the United Nations. 

“A decision was therefore reached to keep money in some countries that were a bit friendly to Nigeria. This decision was taken at a meeting in which the then Minister of Finance, Chief Anthony Ani, was present. It was agreed that some funds be transferred to some selected countries to ensure that government was in a position to get vital imports as and when necessary. That informed the transfer of funds to some countries. I am glad that Chief Anthony Ani, the then Finance Minister, once tried to explain this in a newspaper interview publication,” the book further recalls.

Bamaiyi further recalls that such funds deposited in foreign countries were readily used to import arms and ammunition in 1997 or 1998 for the country.

“The purchase of this ammunition within a short while also brought me into serious conflict with the security operatives, especially the DMI, as contractors who flew this ammunition into Kaduna, where the Army has an Army Ammunition Depot were invited for questioning on the ground that I brought in the ammunition with the intent of overthrowing General Abacha Government. I was then out of Lagos and the contractors contacted me and told me what was happening. I told them not to worry and should not answer any question. I believe that the security operatives contacted General Abacha who must have told them that he approved the purchase of the ammunition. No one ever asked me or talked to me about this issue till I retired from service,” the memoir recalls.

The former army boss also disclosed how he had said he met with former president Goodluck Jonathan over allegation of poor funding of troops fighting insurgency in North East but nothing was done to address it.

Speaking further, he said lack of leadership at both the top and bottom got soldiers demoralized during the past administration. He said when he was released from prison,  he met a soldier that ran away from the battlefront and the soldier complained that they were not having access to food and ammunitions.

“President Jonathan told me he was surprised too at what was happening as money released for the military was not being judiciously put to use. He promised to look into it, but nothing was done to address it”.

He challenged the present service chiefs to always consider the welfare of soldiers above their own.

“Without soldiers, there won’t be officers. This consideration is what makes a successful officer,” he said.

Source: Forefront, Daily Trust

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