Following General Sani Abacha’s death on June 8, 1998, General Abdulsalami Abubakar assumed power. A month later on July 13, 1998, apparently having seen evidence of monumental looting of the treasury by his late predecessor, then Head of State instituted the Special Investigation Panel to establish “cases of swindled public funds and recover same back to the federal government coffers”.
Within a matter of days, the panel had secured records from the apex back which revealed that between November 1993 when he took over and June 1998 when he died, Abacha had taken from the CBN funds totaling $2,263,520,497 in cash withdrawals, travelers cheques and telegraphic transfers, in the name of “security vote”. However, the job of the panel was made easy by the fact that one of the Abacha family associates, Alhaji Abubakar Bagudu (currently Governor of Kebbi State) was ready to cooperate by returning some of the loot.
On May 26, 1999, just three days before handing over power, General Abubakar promulgated Decree 53 of 1999 on forfeiture of assets by certain persons which listed the monies returned by the Abacha’s family.
Abacha’s contempt for accountability commenced less than two weeks after he took power from Chief Ernest Shonekan. In a memo reference NSA/A/320/S/46 dated 30th November 1993, the then National Security Adviser, Alhaji Ismaila Gwarzo, requested for $100 million to combat “an economy that was deflected and distorted through the black market.” In the same memo, Gwarzo also undertook to pay back the naira equivalent into government coffers. Having apparently been briefed by Abacha, the then Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Dr Paul Ogwuma released the money in the following sums: $95 Million and 3.2 million Pounds Sterling, all in cash.
However, the import of that first transaction was that Abacha had realized just how easy it was to directly take money out of the CBN and that became a perfect scam for him. All that was then needed was a letter from Gwarzo seeking approval for any sum of money in the guise of “security” and the CBN would release such demand in cash. So primitive was the whole arrangement that the principal job of some security officials was to be bagging and re-bagging millions of Dollars and Pound Sterling. The following are a few of the documented transactions:
On February 13 and 15, 1995 Gwarzo collected US$200,000 and US$600,000 respectively (totaling $800,000) from the CBN. This was sequel to Abacha’s approval of his letter dated 15th February, 1995 in which he requested for US dollars $4 million and GB£ 2million “to take care of some developments in a number of areas…” The $800,000 was part payment for the approved sum of US $4 million while the balance was paid in Travellers’ Cheques.
On 29th December 1995, Gwarzo collected from the CBN the sum of US $5 million based on Abacha’s approval of his letter to deal with “situation at hand”!
The reasons given in many of the letters seeking approval to take money out of the CBN beggar belief but having “started small”, Abacha apparently became more emboldened with time.
On 23rd August, 1996, Gwarzo collected US $30 million from the CBN following Abacha’s approval of his letter dated 20th August 1996, requesting for the said money to “assist our immediate neighbours and others within this sub-region”.
On 18th December, 1996, Gwarzo collected US $ 66.5 million and GB £20 million following Abacha’s approval of his letter to meet “some requests from Heads of State of some Francophone countries, and to cultivate African solidarity.”
A month later on 30th September, 1996, Gwarzo collected US $50 million and GB £20 million from the CBN sequel to his letter dated 24th September 1996, requesting for the money to “prop some African and other Third World countries” to assist in Nigeria’s “democratization and economic recovery”.
On 28th April, 1997, Gwarzo collected US $60 million GB £30 million sequel to Abacha’s approval of his letter dated 22nd April 1997, in which he requested for the said sums for “public relations to international communities and organizations”.
On 9th July, 1997, Gwarzo collected US $ 5 million from the CBN following Abacha’s approval of his letter dated 23rd May, 1997 to meet all “demands and commitments as directed”.
A month later on 8th December, 1997, Gwarzo collected US $120 million and GB £50 million sequel to Abacha’s approval of his letter dated 26th November 1997. And on 19th January, 1998, Gwarzo collected from the CBN the sums of US $100 million and GB£ 50 million to “counter insinuations that (Lt. General Oladipo) Diya’s coup was not real, and the government framed them to remove and replace the coupists with stooges.”
The interesting thing about this particular transaction was that while re-bagging the money, “four cartons containing a total of about US$ 8 million were set aside” in Gwarzo’s own residence, while the balance of US $57 million and GB£ 30 million were delivered to the late Head of State through Mohammed Abacha.
On 25th October, 1997, Gwarzo collected US$ 80 million and GB £40 million “to sponsor military intervention in Sierra Leone, and garner support for same in the West African Sub-region.”
On 30th April, 1998, a few weeks before Abacha died, Gwarzo collected US $ 80 million, GB £50 million and N250 million based on his letter dated 29th April 1998 for the conduct of an enlightenment campaign on the “virtues” of an “Abacha Presidency”.
On 5th July, 1996, Gwarzo collected from the CBN the sum of US $8.1 million and GB £ 5.2 million based on his request dated 14th June 1996, to support five presidential aspirants in the Niger Republic general elections.
On 21st February, 1997, Gwarzo collected from the CBN the sums of US $60 million and £20 million for “pro-Nigeria propangada” abroad.
On 1st April, 1998, Gwarzo collected from the CBN the sums of US $65 million and GB £30 million for “Public Relations at home and abroad, to counter the European Union campaign against the transition programme.”
On the 8th of May, 1996 Gwarzo collected US $3 million and US $9 million respectively from the CBN. Out of this sum, he reportedly sent US $ 7 million (on behalf of Abacha) to then President Matthew Kerekou of Benin Republic as “assistance to the country to pay outstanding workers’ salary” while US $2 million was for Kerekou himself.
On 13th November, 1996, Gwarzo collected US $5 million and GB £3 million from the CBN based on his letter dated 7th November, 1996 “to take care of foreign dignitaries who will attend the burial ceremonies of the first President of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe.”
On 10th September, 1997, Gwarzo collected US$ 60 million and GB£ 30million from the CBN “to finance a campaign for a seat on the Security Council of the United Nations Organisation.”
On 9th December, 1996, Gwarzo collected US $5 million from the CBN sequel to Abacha’s approval of his letter dated 21st November, 1996 in which he requested the said sum “to finance the purchase of ten Toyota Land Cruisers, and ten Peugeot 505 saloons for the Republic of Mali”.
(From Mayowa Akinsola ‘s Facebook wall)