Supreme Court Rejects Request to Unfreeze Abacha’s Accounts in UK, others

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Supreme Court Rejects Request to Unfreeze Abacha’s Accounts in UK, others
Chinedu Ibeakanma
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The Supreme Court, on Friday, declined the request by a brother to the late Gen. Sani Abacha, Alhaji Ali Abacha, to unfreeze the accounts traced to him and relatives of the late Head of State in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Jersey, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg.

The apex court in a unanimous judgment of a five-man panel led by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta held that Ali Abacha’s case was statute-barred as at when it was commenced in April 2004 at the Federal High Court in Kaduna State.

The judgment was in the appeal marked: SC/359/2010, filed by Alhaji Ali Abacha, said to be a brother of the late Gen. Sani Abacha.

In the lead judgment prepared by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, but read on Friday by Justice Ejembi Eko, the court held that having dismissed a similar appeal in an earlier judgment given in February last year, it has no reason to depart from its reasoning that case brought by Alhaji Abba Mohammed Sani on behalf of the Abacha family.

The court said it noticed that the appellant in this appeal is represented by R. O. Atabo Esq, who, incidentally, was the appellant’s counsel in the earlier appeal.

“No new superior arguments were proferred here to warrant a departure from the decision in the case of Alhaji Sani, earlier decided. This appeal fails, and it is hereby dismissed. Parties to bear their costs”, the apex court said.

The appeal was against July 19, 2010, unanimous judgment of the Court of Appeal, Kaduna division, in which a three-man panel set aside the September 24, 2004 judgment by Justice Mohammed Liman of Federal High Court, Kaduna, earlier given in favour of Ali Abacha.

Alhaji Ali Abacha had sued at the Federal High Court, Kaduna in 2004, challenging among others, the 1999 decision by the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, acting through the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Kanu Agabi (SAN), to request the freezing of all accounts traced to the late Abacha, his family members, and relatives in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Jersey, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg.

Ali Abacha prayed the court to, among others, void the freezing of the accounts on the grounds that the AGF lacked the powers under the Banking (Freezing of Accounts Act, Cap 29, Laws of Nigeria, under which he claimed to have acted, to request the foreign nations to freeze his accounts and those of the companies in which he is a director.

Justice Liman, in his judgment on September 24, 2004, upheld the claims by Ali Abacha and granted all the reliefs sought, a decision the AGF, listed as the sole defendant, appealed at the Court of Appeal, Kaduna division.

In their judgment on July 19, 2010, in the appeal marked: CA/K/71/2005, Justices John Inyang Okoro, Baba Alikali Ba’aba and Mohammed Lawal Garba of the Court of Appeal, Kaduna, were unanimous in holding that the suit was statute-barred.

This post was written by Chinedu Ibeakanma.

The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.

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