Former military President General Ibrahim Babangida has stated that the $12 billion Gulf war windfall was not stolen.
Babangida stated this in an interview published in the December 2014 edition of ‘Zero Tolerance Magazine’, a periodical publication of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Babangida said the $12 billion Gulf war windfall was not stolen, but rather used to build infrastructure like Abuja and the third mainland bridge in Lagos.
“I built Abuja. Today we have a brand new capital, we used that money. I gave you a third mainland bridge, Lagos; you cannot build it now for all the money Nigeria is making. And what did it cost me? 500, 600, 700 million naira,” he said.
On his financial investments, Babangida said he was a major share holder in an unnamed Nigerian bank.
He said: “Let me tell you something, I have been the most investigated president Nigeria has ever had. By now somebody should have come forward to say here it is. Every government that came after me investigated me because of that perception. Because they wanted to retrieve the billions I stole. Unless you can tell me that you haven’t been very efficient in your investigation, that’s your problem and not mine.”
Commenting on why most Nigerian leaders leave office richer than they came into it, he said: “Now you said most, let me tell you on my own. When I got into office August of 1985 I made a declaration and it is there on record what I had, what I possessed, everything and when I left not much had changed. Before I became president I was living in this environment, nobody seems to remember that.”
Reacting to a question that his regime institutionalised corruption in Nigeria, he said: “Yes I know. Maybe I have to accept that, but anybody with a sense of fairness has no option but to call us saints. “I think my government was able to identify corruption prone areas and checked them.”
“I don’t have the facts but if what I’m reading in the papers is currently what is happening, then I think we were angels. In a year I was making less than seven billion dollars in oil revenue, in the same period there are governments that are making 200 to 300 billion dollars. With seven billion dollars, I did the little I could achieve: with 200 billion there is still a lot to be achieved,” he said.
Speaking on the devaluation of the currency, Babangida said his government wanted to compete effectively with economic development of other countries at the time, pointing out that “we were able to keep it down to 22 naira per dollar, when I left, it went up to 85. Abacha was good; he kept it below 85 and 90.”
Babangida also said he toppled General Muhammadu Buhari’s government in 1985 because there was frustration in the country at the time.
It was the same frustration that ousted an elected government in 1983, Babangida said in the interview.
Responding to a question that the coup was staged because Buhari wanted to dismiss him from the army, Babangida said: “No, let me give you a lesson today. A coup or change comes about if there is frustration in the society, just get that right. There was frustration in the society between 1984 and 1985; the ground was fertile for a coup.
“It wasn’t fertile, thanks be to God, in December, 1985 when the first attempt on me was made, neither was it fertile in April 1990 when the second attempt was made and we had the support of all of you sitting down here. You write, you analyse, you talk, and you demonstrated. It was not unusual then to hear, in the case of the democratically elected government in1983; a common phase was ‘the worst military regime is better than this government, so you were giving us the impetus to stage a coup. We are not dummies, if we didn’t have the support of all of you we wouldn’t venture into it,” he said.