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Court dismisses suit on recovered $300m Abacha loot

By Ameh Ochojila, Abuja
20 November 2021   |   3:07 am
Justice Inyang Eden Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday, dismissed a suit instituted against the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF)

Abacha

Justice Inyang Eden Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday, dismissed a suit instituted against the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF) on the monitoring of spending of the $300 million recovered from the late former Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.

The suit, instituted by PPP Advisories, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre and Issa Shuaib, was thrown out by the court on the ground that it had become statute-barred when filed. The suit was also dismissed for the failure of the three plaintiffs to establish their legal entity and for tendering worthless documents to support their case.

Justice Ekwo, while delivering judgment in the suit, held that all public documents tendered by the plaintiffs were worthless because they ran foul of sections 102, 103, 104 and 105 of the Evidence Act 2011.

The judge held that the plaintiffs failed to certify the public documents as required by law and that the failure to certify them was fatal to the case as they have become inadmissible in law.

Ekwo, who said the documents were worthless because no probative value could be ascribed to them, expunged them from the court records.

The Federal Government had in 2020, upon the repatriation of the $300 million to Nigeria from the United Kingdom, announced that the money would be used to fund the completion of the Second Niger Bridge, Abuja – Kano road dualisation and the Lagos – Ibadan expressway.

The FG, United States government and the Bailiwick of Jersey then entered into a tripartite agreement on the $300 million Abacha loot to the effect that the funds would be used as part of the funding for the completion of the Second Niger Bridge, the Abuja – Kano road dualisation and the Lagos – Ibadan expressway.

Flowing from the agreement, the Federal Government sent out an invitation for consultants to submit proposals to the Federal Ministry of Justice, whereupon, the claimant, PPP Advisories Consortium, was among the four prequalified firms from the 17 firms that responded to the request for prequalification.

After the evaluation of the financial proposals of the four prequalified consultants, PPP Advisories was disqualified on alleged deficiencies in the claims submitted for qualifications. The disqualification was conveyed to the plaintiffs in a letter of July 28, 2020.

Dissatisfied with the outcome, the claimants – PPP Advisories, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and Issa Shuaibu & Co (PPP Advisories Consortium) – approached the Federal High Court, challenging the legality or otherwise of the government’s decision.

Listed as defendants in the writ of summons are the AGF; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General of the Federation, Mr. Dayo Apata (SAN) (sued as chairman, Ministerial Tenders Board) and the Bureau of Public Procurement.

The claimants, through their counsel, Dr. Daniel Bwala, urged the court to make an order setting aside the decision of the procurement panel adjudging its technical and financial proposal as non-responsive.

They also urged the court to make an order directing the defendants to issue a letter declaring them as the winning bidder, and invite them for negotiation, having achieved the highest score and, therefore, emerged the winner of the bid.

But in his judgment, Justice Ekwo agreed with the defendants that the suit had become statute-barred, having been instituted outside the three months stipulated by law.

The judge rejected all the public documents tendered by the plaintiffs to establish the case because they were not certified as required by law.

Ekwo also held that the plaintiffs failed to establish that they were legally registered as required by law.

“I have said that the court in deciding the case will look into all issues raised and that the case of the plaintiffs must succeed on its own merit and not on the weakness or failure of the defendants.

“I can safely say at this point that I am unable to ascribe probative value to any of the documents tendered by the plaintiffs to establish this case.

“ I find no merit in this case and for this reason, this suit is liable to be dismissed and I hereby dismiss it accordingly”, the judge said.