The military dictator ruled Nigeria for five years.
The Nigerian government on Friday said although late General Sani Abacha’s regime was one of the most controversial in Nigeria’s history, the military dictator deserved to be honoured.
The government also explained why Mr. Abacha, Nigeria’s military dictator from 1993 to 1998, was among those who received the centenary award for 100 Nigerians.
The government stated this position in the awardees’ brochure where a brief citation was written for each recipient and reasons given why he or she deserved the award.
The citation and reasons where read during the Centenary honours Award night held at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
The federal government said Mr. Abacha was also a Nigerian soldier and former leader. The government said his regime recorded unprecedented economic achievements in Nigeria’s history.
The Federal Government also said Mr. Abacha oversaw an increase in the country’s foreign exchange reserves from $494 million in 1993 to $9.6 billion by the middle of 1997; and reduced the external debt of Nigeria from $36 billion in 1993 to $27 billion in 1997.
Mr. Abacha, the government noted, had brought all the controversial privatisation programs of the Babangida administration to a halt, reduced an inflation rate of 54 per cent inherited from the Ibrahim Babangida administration to 8.5 per cent between 1993 and 1998, while the nation’s primary commodity, oil, was at an average of $9 per barrel.
Mr. Babangida was also among the 100 honoured.
Mr. Abacha’s administration was also credited with creating the most ‘comprehensive and realistic blueprint’ for Nigeria’s development through Vision 2010 committee chaired by his predecessor, Ernest Shonekan.
Mr. Abacha’s regime was characterised by massive corruption, state-sponsored murder and assassination, and random imprisonment of persons seen as critical of government.
Many Nigerians hunted by the government also sought exile abroad.
Some of those who died either directly in the hands of the state or believed to have been murdered by the government include Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni leaders, Shehu Yar’Adua, and Kudirat Abiola.
Those imprisoned include Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigeria’s former president, journalist Kunle Ajibade and others.
The federal government also recently said it spent the over $500 million stolen money recovered from the Abacha’s on rural development.