By Yusufu Shehu Usman
I think it’s so easy to believe that all the loot now recovered under his name were stolen by Abacha, because he is dead and can’t defend himself against any or all of the allegations against him
The present Looters have at their disposal the legal and all the “connectional” advantage of defending themselves in the courts
They also have the advantage of what the EFCC calls plea bargain which allows them before or after proof that they stole the funds they are being Investigate on, to give a part of the large chunk back to the State and keep the other part for themselves, which under the EFCC law, is legal and legitimate
The late Abacha had not the privilege nor the opportunity to explore plea bargain, because he was dead at the time the procedure was legalised and made a part of our law (from the back door in my view)
Imagine if he had the leverage of plea bargain, the bulk of what we now call Abacha loot would have legally belonged to Abacha and his family
Now that Abacha is dead and not in a position to defend himself, it is not impossible for any person caught in possession of looted funds to attribute the ownership of same to Abacha, to avoid prosecution and/ or embarrassment
While it is quite possible and most likely true that Abacha would have stolen some of the looted funds, I am not completely convinced that he personally looted everything ascribed to him today
The reasonable conclusion to draw from this, is that some were truly Abacha loot while others are Abacha-like loot
Finally I can’t resist the temptation to ask the question; was Abacha ever prosecuted and found guilty of looting by a court of competent jurisdiction?
Who proved that Abacha personally looted all the fund we now fondly and conveniently refer to Abacha loot?
I think even in death, Abacha deserves and is entitled to the benefit of doubt and the Constitutional presumption of innocence
Is it.not our law that says no matter the gravity of the offence a citizen of Nigeria may be accused of, our law and the Constitution presume him innocent until proven guilty by due process of the law?
That is what we call the presumption of innocence and it is in the nature of a fundamental right in Nigeria
Therefore, since Abacha was never tried and convicted of looting by any court in Nigeria, he died with the presumption of innocence in his favour and took it along with him to his grave
Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge, our laws have made no provisions for post humous trial of any citizen. Therefore, Abacha could not have been personally tried after his death no matter the quantum of evidence the EFCC may have against him.
It is pertinent also to state that under the principles of criminal liability recognised by our laws, every body is personally responsible or can only answer for his own criminal act and not that of others, and, the civil law principle of vicarious liability does not apply in criminal law
It will be fairer and more appropriate if we tag every loot to the person through whom it was directly recovered even if he claims that it had a link to Abacha
By failing to do that, we have not only deprived Abacha of his presumption of innocence but also unfairly and without conclusive proof or justification, made him to carry the burden of others
Just imagine if Abacha were to be alive at the time the investigations were carried out and he was prosecuted before the court, would the same or similar scenario we witnessed in the Dasuki investigation not be re enacted?
Would Abacha not have disowned some of the loot credited to his person and name?
That is why I proposed in a previous post that every loot, should be named after the person it was recovered from
Some of these famous or infamous loots were only “linked” to Abacha and death had deprived him the opportunity to admit or disprove the links
I think we are being unfair to the soul , memory and family of the. late Abacha by referring to every loot recovered under his regime as Abacha loot.
If we were to apply the general or uniform standards of fairness, why shouldn’t we use the same description in respect of the loots recovered under other presidents dead and alive? And there is a litany of them
Why don’t we for example refer to the loot recovered under the Babangida regime as “IBB loot, those recovered under the Obasanjo administration as “OBJ loot, those recovered under Yaradua government as “Yaradua loot” and the most recent in the sequence of recovery under Jonathan administration as “GEJ loot?”
This should be the natural pattern and nomenclature to adopt in linking loots to regimes not individual presidents
By extension, should we call the loots to be recovered from those who would steal them under the presidency of Buhari as “Buhari loot?
Will that be fair to such a transparent and corruption resistant President like Buhari?
It’s either we tag every loot recovered to the regime that perpetrated it or if we must personalise it to the individual Presidents, we should apply uniform standards to others as we are now doing to Abacha