By Mustapha Usman
A former chief of army staff, Ishaya Bamayi, has said that ‘Abacha loot’ was merely created by the media, and that insinuation the late head of state, Sani Abacha, looted Nigeria dry was untrue.
On June 8, 2008, at a remembrance prayer to mark the 10th anniversary of Mr Abacha, President Muhammadu Buhari and his military successor, Ibrahim Babangida, also held a similar opinion, saying the late head of state never looted Nigeria’s treasury.
Mr Abacha took over power from interim president, Ernest Shonekan, in 1993 and ruled until his death in June 1998.
Since his death, successive Nigerian administrations had accused the late head of state of allegedly stealing up to $5billion and made efforts to either repatriate or negotiate release of parts of the funds with his family.
But speaking at a book launch and public presentation of the personal account of his military career, Mr Bamaiyi said Mr Abacha only decided that the monies should be kept in places where they could be easily accessed.
“I am not defending Abacha, I am not saying things did not go wrong. What I know is that we sat down and agreed that the monies should be kept in a place so that we can have access to them. I don’t know if something else happened after that time.
“If you remember, we had problems in Sierra Leone and Liberia once and it was monies from the Abacha regime that we used to buy weapons and ammunition to help those countries fight.”
Mr Bamaiyi said late Abacha did very well for the country, adding that if Nigerians see him from the bad aspect, they should also look at his good aspect and remember him for the good things he did for the country.
The retired general also revealed the behind-the-scene moves to secure the release of late M.K.O. Abiola, the workings of Abacha’s inner cabinet, failed coup incidents, details of the said loot, among others.
In his remark, a former head of state, Yakubu Gowon, commended Mr Bamaiyi for the spirit and courage with which he chronicled his experiences in the book.