The Federal Government has been advised to shelve the proposed idea of sharing the sum of $528 million looted fund otherwise known as ‘Abacha’s loot’ recently repatriated from Switzerland among poor Nigerians.
Giving the advice in this interview with TUNDE THOMAS, the National Co-ordinator, Ijaw Monitoring Group, IMG, Comrade Joseph Evah said that the money belongs to the Niger- Delta people.
On this issue of recovered Abacha loot be- ing expected from Switzerland, the Federal Government has decided to distribute the money among poor Nigerians, what’s your take on that?
The Niger-Delta people are not opposed to sharing money for the poor but we are surprised that President Muhammadu Buhari without consulting us decided on that line of action.
The money, that is the so-called recovered loot belongs to the Niger-Delta. The money is from oil. We want President Buhari to tell us and other Nigerians that the money belongs to the Niger-Delta people and then we people of the Niger-Delta will now decide how the money will be shared.
It is unfortunate that President Buhari without consulting the Niger-Delta people is now telling us how this money will be shared. It is not that Niger-Delta people are opposed to sharing anything with other Nigerians, after all, we have been sharing the oil money with other Nigerians over the years. And this one also, the so-called recovered loot, we are prepared to share it with other Nigerians. But we need to be consulted. Without that, the Niger-Delta people can’t allow the money to be shared like that.
But should the Federal Government de- cide to go ahead with its own plan without consulting the people of Niger-Delta, what then is going to happen?
Then we are going to protest, and petition the United Nations, and the International Community. We will appeal to the United Nations to help us tell Buhari that this is democracy. He can’t do whatever he likes the over recovered so-called Abacha loot.
It is the Niger-Delta people that should decide the sharing formula over the so-called recovered Abacha loot. Anything short of that is not acceptable to us. Then, another thing again is that calling that money Abacha loot is not acceptable to the people of Niger-Delta. The Federal Government should not call money recovered Abacha loot.
That money is not Abacha’s loot. That money was stolen by some people. President Buhari should first order an investigation into the real source of the money. The EFCC, and FBI can help to trace the source of the money and the people who took the money out of Nigeria. I don’t believe that money was looted by Abacha. It is because Abacha is dead that they are lying against the man. It is General Abdusalam Abubakar, and former President Olusegun Obasanjo that conspired against Abacha. They are enemies of Abacha–they are extending their enmity to Abacha to the grave. I petitioned Oputa Panel over this money or what they are calling Abacha loot. But the Oputa Panel refused to listen to me. The panel refused to entertain my petition.
Why did the panel refuse to entertain your petition?
First, one of the reasons I went to Oputa Panel was to make the revelation that this money being referred to as Abacha loot by General Abdusalam Abubakar and Obasanjo is not Abacha loot. Let the Federal Government investigate and tell us the real identity of the looters. If they can’t reveal the real identities of the looters of this money, they should call the money Unknown Looters Fund instead of referring to it as Abacha Loot. I strongly believe that Obasanjo and Abubakar know the real looters of this money being referred to as Abacha Loot.Oputa refused to listen to my petition in 2005 because I wanted
to tell the panel and the whole world that both Abubakar and Obasanjo conspired against Abacha because both of them saw Abacha as their common enemy, and what was Abacha’s offence? His offence was that he jailed Obasanjo and was also set to retire General Abdusalam Abubakar from the Army before his sudden death.
These two former leaders because they hate Abacha and were also afraid of naming the real looters of that money then decided to hang it on Abacha’s neck because the man is now dead. They know that a dead man can’t defend himself.
I wanted Oputa Panel to set up an independent committee to determine whether it was Abacha that physically stole and took the Nigerian money to foreign countries. Let them show us the CCTV of how Abacha was carrying the money to those countries. Was it by aeroplanes or through banks that he transferred the money? Where are the banks that Abacha transported the money to?
Another thing I put in my petition to Oputa Panel was that Abacha wanted to become President of Nigeria, and the then existing five political parties then adopted him as their sole presidential candidate.
Then how can somebody who wants to become president of Nigeria then carry this huge sum of money abroad? Was he thinking of going on exile? No. Abacha was not thinking of going on exile. So, Nigerians should think deeper. It was a conspiracy between Obasanjo and General Abdusalam Abubakar to hang this money on Abacha’s neck because they know a dead man can’t defend himself. Again, Obasanjo and Abdusalam Abubakar conspired against Abacha in order to divert the attention of Nigerians, and people of the South West from the ignoble roles both of them played in the sudden death of late M.K.O Abiola. It is unfortunate that Obasanjo and Abubakar can go to this length to destroy Abacha’s name. This money the two of them referred to as Abacha loot is even money that other political leaders and office holders before Abacha came and looted. But Obasanjo and Abubakar knowing that Abacha is dead and that he can’t fight for himself decided to call this money Abacha loot. Again to show you the kind of characters Obasanjo, and Abdusalam Abubakar are, they also jointly conspired to name May 29, Democracy Day instead of June 12 just to spite late M.K.O Abiola.
Are you talking about all previous looted money or just this 528 million dollars being brought from Switzerland?
Apart from that, we want to speak out against those things we consider bad, nobody no matter how highly placed should be speaking evil things about the dead. It is very unfair to be speaking evil of Abacha because the man is dead; if we continue like this, Nigeria is not going anywhere. These are kind of evils that have not allowed Nigeria to prosper. Why lying against the dead?
How can Abacha who was planning to become a democratically elected president transfer this huge sums of money abroad? Was Abacha who wanted to become president planning to go on exile? Who are the people that helped Abacha to transfer the money? The Federal Government should publish their names, and also find answers to my posers. All what they have been saying is Abacha loot, Abacha loot, but this is nothing but a conspiracy against a dead man. One of the reasons for this conspiracy against Abacha is that Obasanjo, Abdulsalaami Abubakar and their co-conspirators believe Nigerians will forget about M.K.O Abiola and June 12 if they continue to disparage Abacha who is dead.
Sometime I wonder what our so-called investigative journalists are doing – they are investigating nothing. If they are truly investigating, these are the kind of stories that should be interesting to them. Nobody is talking about General Abdusalam Abubakar’s loot because he gave Nigeria democracy. General Abdusalam Abubakar got away with his loot because he gave us democracy.
Are you now saying that General Abdusalam Abubakar is not that hero many Nigerians think he is?
We are not saying that Abubakar is not a hero. But my grouse against him, and Obasanjo is this, why are they twisting or distorting history, why are they speaking evil of Abacha, why are they fighting a dead man? In African culture, we don’t speak ill of the dead. This is why I told Oputa Panel that it was the conspiracy between Abdusalam and Obasanjo to kill June 12 that made the two of them to come up with this idea of Abacha loot. This money being called Abacha loot is very wrong. Then how should the money be tagged? This money should be called Unknown Looters Fund; that is if the Federal Government and investigative journalists can’t investigate the source of the money.
When I went before Oputa Panel to reveal all these things, and speak out on them, Oputa told me that my petition is dangerous. I even suggested that Obasanjo should be recommended for trial over Odi’s destruction.
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One of my petitions to Oputa Panel was that Obasanjo should be tried for genocide for ordering the destruction of Ijaws and their settlements in Odi which I felt should have been approved by the Oputa panel. Obasanjo deserves to be tried for crime against humanity over Odi invasion which amounts to massacre of innocent people. So I petitioned Oputa Panel that the panel should recommend Obasanjo’s trial at the United Nations Tribunal in Tanzania for crime against humanity because at the time of Oputa panel, only Tanzania was hosting UN criminal court against genocide in Africa but the Oputa panel turned down all my petitions. In fact, my four petitions were turned down; it was very sad and I was very angry.
From the way you are talking, don’t you think that some Nigerians will think that you are defending Abacha or working for Abacha’s family?
Nobody can come and tell me what to do or not to do. As an adult, I know what is right from wrong. When any government does anything that is good, I commend such government. For example, when this present government restored teaching of history back into the school curriculum, I openly commended President Buhari for taking that action. Before I take any action, I think deeply and reflect a lot. Like I said earlier, why should Abacha be taking billions of dollars abroad more so when he was at the same time planning to become civilian president?
How do you see the recent declaration of June 12 as a public holiday in honour of late M.K.O Abiola by President Muhammadu Buhari?
I’m happy that at long last, M.K.O Abiola has been honoured. I’m also happy like other activists that June 12 has eventually been recognized and declared as Democracy Day, and also as a public holiday. This is why I also want President Buhari to right another wrong by calling the so-called Abacha loot Unknown Fund .It is a shame that Obasanjo who had all the opportunity to honor Abiola failed to do so. It is the same Obasanjo that was the greatest beneficiary of June 12 annulment which MKO Abiola suffered and died for. But see how God has shamed Obasanjo and other enemies of June 12 now. Look at how God has used Buhari to correct the evils done to Abiola.I believe Obasanjo will now even hate Buhari more for honoring Abiola and also for declaring June 12 public holiday instead of Obasanjo’s fraudulent May 29 declaration as Democracy Day. We praise Buhari for having the courage to declare June 12 as public holiday. This is why it is good to always listen to advice. Even in the Bible, God said, come let’s reason together. Buhari has listened to good counsel by honouring M.K.O Abiola, but we also want him to take firm decisions on other issues affecting the country which if not quickly addressed may plunge Nigeria into serious crisis.
What are some of these issues?
Insecurity problem and killings across the country especially in the North must stop. These killings are painful. How does President Buhari sleep in the night with all these killings going on? He should find ways to stop the killings immediately. But I think the ongoing military operation against the killers is yielding some results but he should still remember that as the president, and Commander-In-Chief, the buck stops at his table. He should not hesitate to sack or fire any incompetent official not living up to the expectations from his office.
I also want to make an appeal to him to remember his good friend, late General Babatunde Idiagbon, a man that was ready to lay down his life for Buhari. When Buhari’s regime was toppled in 1985 by General Babangida, Idiagbon who was Buhari’s deputy and was outside the country in Saudi Arabia insisted on returning to Nigeria insisting that he does not mind suffering the same fate with Buhari who had already been put into detention. Idiagbon was a loyal and competent officer. He was loyal to Buhari. I want Buhari to immortalize him by renaming the newly commissioned EFCC headquarters, Babatunde Idiagbon House. Another loyal Nigerian that was also ready to lay down his life for his boss was late Col. Adekunle Fajuyi. He actually offered himself to die with his boss, General Aguiyi Ironsi in 1966. Fajuyi should be immortalized.