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Sani Abacha


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(b. 20 Sept. 1943, d. 8 June 1998).

Nigerian dictator 1993–8 Born in Kano of the Hausa people, he was educated at the local government college before entering the army in 1962. He rose through its ranks to become major-general in 1984, and was part of the ruling Supreme Military Council (1984–5). A close colleague of Babangida, he supported his military coup in 1985 and was made Chief of Staff. Abacha became Minister of Defence in 1990. Following Babangida's electoral defeat by Abiola in 1993, he staged a coup against Babangida and became President himself on 18 November 1993. Despite waves of protest strikes, he outlawed all democratic political institutions, pacifying some of the strikers through withdrawing a number of the draconian economic policies he had introduced, such as a 600 per cent increase in the price of petrol. Abacha managed to defy growing international pressure for an end to his brutal regime. Western sanctions remained ineffective as long as they excluded Nigeria's vital export commodity, oil. He clung on to power despite domestic and international pressure, and died in office from a heart attack.

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