Former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi (rtd), has disclosed that Abacha loot was a mere 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 said this at the launch of his tell-all book ‘Vindication of a General’ on Thursday in Abuja.
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.”
“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 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,”