General Sani Abacha of Nigeria
General Sani Abacha ruled for only five years but during that time he operated a secretive and brutal regime that left Nigeria in absolute poverty. He obtained power through a military coup on November 17th 1993. The following year he issued a decree that gave him absolute power by placing the authority of his government over that of the courts. He also issued a decree that would allow him to imprison anyone for three months without trial.
On the surface one might think that Abacha had a successful presidency. He would able to increase the country’s foreign exchange reserves to $9.6 billion by the middle of 1997. He reduced the country’s debt by $9 billion and reduced the inflation rate to 8.5% which had been previously getting out of control at 54%. His economic achievements were very impressive considering the dire economic straits that the country had been in prior to his leadership. However, the real story is very different.
Sani Abacha is considered to be one of the most corrupt leaders in history because of the amount of money he stole from his own country. The main export of Nigeria was oil and Abacha and his partners took control of nearly every aspect of the industry. The country earned about $10 billion a year from its oil sales and it provides 80% of the Nigeria’s government revenue, but that did not stop Abacha from siphoning a large percentage of that revenue for his own fortune. He is believed that he stole more than $4.3 billion from the government for himself in a country where the GDP per capita was less than $3,000.
Human rights abuses were also rampant during his tenure as he was known to kill or imprison any political opposition to his control. Torture and lengthy imprisonments for minor crimes were common. Relatives of those who were wanted by the government would often be imprisoned in order to convince the wanted criminals to turn themselves in.