Abacha’s Loot: A Timeline of the Funds Recovery

Sani Abacha

On Wednesday, January 29th, the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, announced during a Federal Executive Council meeting that the government is set to recover a fresh $321 million stashed abroad by the former military head of state, Sani Abacha.

It has been called the gift that keeps on giving. Abacha’s loot. Twenty-three years after his passing, the Nigerian government is still recovering money taken by General Sani Abacha estimated to be between $2 billion and $5 billion. So far, the government is believed to have recovered at least $2 billion.

Efforts to recover the loot began in 1998 after the death of Abacha.

  • In 1998, the military ruler, General Abdusalam Abubakar, recovered $750 million cash in different currencies from the Abacha family.
  • In 2000, following the return to democracy, the government of Switzerland returned $64 million.
  • In 2002, the president at the time, Olusegun Obasanjo, took the Abacha family to court, reaching an agreement with them to return $1.2 billion. This was later disputed by some as a political play to help Obasanjo’s re-election.
  • In November 2003, the finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala revealed Nigeria had recovered $149 million from Jersey, British Isles, and $88 million returned by the government of Switzerland.
  • In September 2005, Okonjo-Iweala announced at a conference in Switzerland that Nigeria had recovered $458 million and about $2 billion in assets from Abacha’s loot.
  • Again, in 2006, the government of Switzerland return $44 million.
  • In June 2014, Liechtenstein returned $227 million to Nigeria.
  • That same year, the United States Department of Justice announced the largest forfeiture in the organization’s history when $480 million from Abacha’s loot was discovered.
  • In 2017, Switzerland confirmed $320 million had been given so far to Nigerian government from Abacha’s loot and properties seized from the family.
  • In 2019, $267 million was traced to Abacha in the tax haven of the Channel Islands.

The latest announcement of recovered Abacha’s loot by the government may very well not be the last one.