After the death of Sani Abacha in June 1998, Maryam Abacha attempted to leave Nigeria with suitcases filled with money. She was arrested, placed on 24-hour surveillance, and banned from leaving Nigeria. In 1999 Maryam Abacha said that her husband acted in the good will of Nigeria; an official of the Nigerian government said that Maryam Abacha said that to convince the government to grant her a reprieve, as the president, Olusegun Obasanjo, had been jailed by Sani Abacha. As of 2000 Maryam Abacha remained in Nigeria.
Maryam and Sani Abacha had seven sons and three daughters. Maryam Abacha's eldest surviving son is Mohammed Abacha.
Her name was often used in various advance fee fraud scams and therefore the name "Maryam Abacha" became associated with advance fee fraud.