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FLASHBACK: Obasanjo described deal to cede $100m to Abacha family as hardest decision of his life

FLASHBACK: Obasanjo described deal to cede $100m to Abacha family as hardest decision of his life
February 24
19:54 2020

In 2002, the administration of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo signed an agreement ceding $100 million to the family of Sani Abacha in exchange for the return of $1 billion ill-gotten wealth traced to the late military dictator.

The deal, Obasanjo said at the time, was the “hardest decision” he had to make in his life.

Abacha, who served as Nigeria’s head of state from 1993 to 1998, was said to have looted up to $5 billion  during his regime.

Efforts to recover the funds had hit the rocks until Obasanjo signed a contract to allow the family of the late leader to have $100 million in return of the money stashed across Swiss banks.

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“That (the contract) is one of the hardest decisions I have to make in my life,” Obasanjo was quoted as telling TELL Magazine.

“I know that the Abacha family hadn’t legitimately done any work to deserve US$ 100 million.”

Obasanjo was further quoted to have said he signed the deal because what Abacha’s lawyer wanted was for the case to linger “endlessly and they can do that almost forever.”

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“Our lawyers came and said: Well you have a choice to make. We got to a situation where we can get about US$ 1.2 billion,” he had reportedly said.

“But should I go ahead to recover US$ 1.2 billion of Nigeria’s money or go to tell Nigerians that we are fighting this case and 25, 30 years from now you wouldn’t get anything. 

“So I told the lawyer ‘let me think about it because it wasn’t an easy decision for me.” 

Obasanjo, however, agreed the deal was a good one, when compared to similar cases across the world.

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Just like the case of Bagudu, the deal also shielded the Abacha family from further litigation particularly those relating to the amount Nigeria was seeking to recover.

Editor’s note: This report has been edited to correct errors of fact.

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