FinanceNews Update

France to return fresh $150m Abacha loot to Nigeria, total recovered loot nears $4b

France has agreed to return $150 million to Nigeria, another tranche of the loot traced to Sani Abacha, former military dictator who ruled Nigeria in the 90s.

Ajuri Ngelale, special adviser to the president on media and publicity, made the announcement in a statement on Friday following a meeting between President Bola Tinubu and Catherine Colonna, the minister of Europe and foreign affairs of France.

Tinubu thanked France for the return of the loot, saying it would be used in developing the country.

“Thank you for the good news on the return of Abacha loot. We appreciate your effective cooperation concerning the return of Nigeria’s money. It will be judiciously applied in attaining our development objectives,” Ngelale quoted his principal as saying.

It’s been more than two decades since Sani Abacha – the Nigerian dictator with a love for dark sunglasses, exterminating political dissidents and looting billions of dollars from the treasury – died. Still, every other year, there’s a revelation of a new tranche of money stashed away in his name. General Abacha and his associates were implicated in embezzling an estimated $4-6 billion during his time in power. The stolen funds were often stashed in foreign bank accounts and hidden in offshore assets, making it difficult for Nigerian authorities to trace and recover them.

The total amount of looted funds recovered from late despot in the past 24 years has been put at $3.65 billion, according to this BBC report in 2021.

The report showed that while in 1998, a total of $750 million was recovered from the late Head of State’s family; in year 2000, $64 million was recovered from Switzerland; in 2002 – $1.2 billion was recovered from the Abacha family; in 2003, $160 million and $88 million were recovered from Jersey and Switzerland respectively, and in 2005 another $461.3 million was returned back to the country from Switzerland.

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Also, in 2006, Nigeria was also fortunate to have received another $44.1 million from Switzerland; in 2014 – $227 million was recovered from Liechtenstein; in 2018 another $322 million from Switzerland; in 2020 a total of $311.7 million was repatriated from the USA and also recently an agreement was signed for another $23 million to be sent from the USA.  

Since then, the federal government of Nigeria and the United States of America had signed an agreement in 2022 for the repatriation of $23 million, being assets looted by late Head of State, General Sani Abacha.

The latest tranche of loot pushes the total of recovered money to almost $4b. The government promised that the money will be “judiciously applied in attaining our development objectives.”

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