General Sani Abacha

General Sani Abacha was the 10th president of Nigeria who served as a military head of State for five years (1993-1998). He was known as a man of few words and actions. He forcefully took over power from Ernest Shonekan through a military coup and made himself the president until 1998, when he died of a Heart attack.

General Sani Abacha Early Life and Education

General Sani Abacha was born on September 20, 1993, in Kano, the capital city of Kano State. He is of the Kanuri tribe of Borno State but spent most of his early life in Kano State.

Sani Abacha attended City Senior Primary School Kano and got his secondary school education at the Provincial Secondary School (now Government College) in Kano state, Nigeria.

In 1962, General Sani Abacha attended the Nigerian Military Training College, Kaduna. And in 1963, the MONS Defence Officers Cadet Training College, Aldershot United Kingdom. In 1966, He proceeded to the School of Infantry Warminster, United Kingdom.

General Sani Abacha Military Ranks.

General Sani Abacha was the only military head of state who passed through all the military ranks before becoming a General. That is, he never skipped any levels. 

1963-Second Lieutenant

1966- Lieutenant


1969-Platoon and battalion commander, training department and commander, 2nd Infantry Division.


1972- Lieutenant Colonel

1975- Colonel and Commanding officer, 2nd Infantry Brigade.

1980- Brigadier

1984- General Officer Commanding, 2nd Mechanized Division

1984-Major General

1987-Lieutenant General


General Sani Abacha Military Career.

General Sani Abacha was involved in all the successful military coups in Nigeria and contributed to his promotions and rise in ranks.

He played a crucial role in the 1983 coup that ousted Shehu Shagari and brought General Muhammadu Buhari to Power. General Abacha was the one who announced this coup in a broadcast over Radio Nigeria.

In this announcement, he stated that:

“I am referring to the harsh intolerable conditions under which we are now living. Our economy has been hopelessly mismanaged. We have become a debtor and a beggar-nation.” 

Abacha said the armed forces “in discharge of their national roles as the promoters and protectors of our national interest decided to infect a change in the leadership of the government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria…..”

This was an event that brought Abacha to the spotlight in Nigeria. He then joined the ruling Supreme Military Council (SMC) and became the General Officer Commanding, 2nd Mechanized Division, Ibadan, Nigeria.

He was also involved in the coup that overthrew General Muhammadu Buhari and brought General Babangida to power. 

In 1985, General Sani Abacha became the Chief of Army Staff after General Babangida became the head of State. And in 1990, General Sani Abacha became the Minister of Defense.

On November 17, 1993, General Sani Abacha led the coup that removed the Interim President, Ernest Shonekan as head of state, and took control of power himself. Although, it was officially announced that Ernest Shonekan resigned from office and Abacha took over because he was the most senior member of government (Secretary of Defence).  

General Sani Abacha as Head of State

General Sani Abacha’s regime is described as the worst and most brutal regime Nigeria has ever had. His government was defaced with Human rights abuses and suppressing those who tried to oppose his government.

Abacha dismantled the remaining democratic structures passed down from General Babangida’s transition to democracy. He banned the National Electoral Commission, existing political parties, the federal, state, and local governments and replaced them with military commanders.

In 1994, General Abacha imprisoned Moshood Abiola the winner of the annulled June 12 elections- for declaring himself president.

Nigeria earned worldwide disapproval and was banned from The Commonwealth.

This was due to the execution of nine Ogoni activists who were protesting against the activities of the government. And among those murdered was Ken Saro-Wiwa, a poet and a Nobel prize nominee. 

Woke Soyinka, Nigeria’s Nobel Laureate, was also charged for treason, making him leave for the united states in exile. he returned to Nigeria after four years

General Abacha wouldn’t listen to the suggestions of the IMF and reimposed controls on the economy. Workers went on a national strike to press for economic demands and to protest the annulment of the June 12 elections that proposed Moshood Abiola as the winner. This act affected the nation’s economy and brought many ongoing projects to a halt.

In 1996, General Sani Abacha became the Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States. In 1998, Abacha deployed Nigerian Military troops to Sierra Leone to overthrow the sitting military government and reinstall the civilian government. 

On October 17, 1998, General Sani Abacha died from a heart attack and Nigeria transitioned to a civilian government one year later. Abdulsalam Abubakar then became the next head of state

General Abacha’s Personal and Family Life

General Sani Abacha was married to Maryam (also an indigene of Borno State) in 1965. They had nine children-6 boys and three girls. His first son Ibrahim died in a plane crash in 1996.

General Sani Abacha Networth

General Sani Abacha was known as one of Africa’s wealthiest leaders and the information about his net worth varies from source to source (usually between $5billion and $10billion). During his regime as head of state, funds went missing from the national treasury. It is believed that General Abacha amassed the majority of his wealth from looting national funds.

After his death in 1998, some of these funds were recovered at intervals by the Nigerian government. He had money scattered across banks in Switzerland, Jersey, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg.

In 2002, when Olusegun Obasanjo was the head of state, $1.2 billion was recovered from Abacha’s looted funds after negotiations with Mohammed Abacha (Abacha’s first son). And another $350 million was recovered in 2019, during President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime. 

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