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Abacha Never Stole, Say Buhari, Babangida

Posted by From Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano on 2008/06/09 | Views: 1610 |

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Abacha Never Stole, Say Buhari, Babangida


The late military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, did not loot the national treasury contrary to the general impression, two military former heads of state have said.

The late military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, did not loot the national treasury contrary to the general impression, two military former heads of state have said.

Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, who ruled Nigeria between 1983 and 1985, and his successor, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, gave Abacha the clean bill in Kano yesterday after the rememberance prayers marking 10 years of the death of Abacha, who ruled between 1993 and 1998.

Abacha was accused of stealing nearly £5 billion while in office, out of which over $1 billion has reportedly been recovered from various sources around the world.

But Babangida, who described Abacha as a "courageous, loyal and honest military head of state who stood for the unity and development of the country during his years in government", has dismissed the allegations.

He said the looting allegations against Abacha were unfounded and baseless, stressing that "it is not true that he looted public treasury. I knew who Abacha was because I was close to him".

Babangida said: "Abacha was a courageous person who stood firmly in handling the affairs of the country during his regime."

He added that the regime of Abacha brought positive changes in the country which should have been emulated.

He said 10 years after the death of Abacha, his contributions to the nation’s economy remain indelible.

"There is no doubt, during his administration as head of state, Abacha contributed his best to the nation’s economy which we are still enjoying," he said.

Babangida’s new position however contrasts with what he told Newswatch magazine in July 2000.

He had said: "The revelations [on Abacha’s loot] surprised me. I am surprised, because I didn't know."

He had also explained that Abacha's death brought "relative stability", adding that "it gives us, oh well, let's see, there is hope after all".

Babangida, in that interview, also blamed the society for allowing Abacha to grow into the dictator he became.

"I feel bad that society failed to realise that they have a duty to protect whatever values they hold dear to their hearts as far as this country is concerned. At any rate, there are people I like and do respect those who stood against the regime, who are not military officers but civilians who are able to speak out. They didn't mince words and if their views had been heard, he wouldn't have [done enough harm]," he had said in response to a question.

Buhari, in his own comments yesterday, described the allegations of looting against Abacha as "baseless", because according to him, "ten years after Abacha, those allegations remain unproven because of lack of facts".

While also commenting, former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who took over when Abacha died on June 8, 1998, commended his predecessor for initiating Vision 2010, saying that the economic vision of the present administration termed Vision 2020 is a replica of Abacha’s 2010 initiative.

Abubakar also tasked Nigerian politicians to concentrate on how best to contribute to national development instead wasting time and money investigating their predecessors, adding that probing past administrations "does not yield anything positive to the nation and should be discouraged".

Babangida also spoke on the probe of his government by the immediate past administration, saying: "We are still waiting for the outcome of the probe."

The three former leaders sat close to one another during the special prayer session which started exactly 10am and lasted for over one hour at an open compound belonging to the family of the former head of state.

The prayer session was attended by former Abacha’s aides, Emirs of Hadejia, Gumel, Jema’a and Chief Fredrick Fasehun of Odua Peoples Congress (OPC).

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