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Supreme Court declines Abacha’s family’s request to unfreeze foreign accounts

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Abacha


The Supreme Court, yesterday, declined the request filed by Alhaji Ali Abacha, a brother to the late head of state, Gen. Sani Abacha, against the order of the Nigerian government to freeze accounts traced to him and other relatives of the late military ruler in the United Kingdom (UK), Switzerland, Jersey, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.  

In a unanimous judgment, the five-man panel of the court, led by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, ruled that Ali Abacha’s case was statute barred as at the time it was filed in April 2004 at the Federal High Court, Kaduna.

In the lead judgment prepared by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun and read by Justice Ejembi Eko in the appeal, marked SC/359/2010, 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 in the case brought earlier by Alhaji Abba Mohammed Sani on behalf of the Abacha family.  

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The said it noticed that the appellant in the latest appeal was represented by R. O. Atabo, who incidentally was the appellant’s Counsel in the earlier appeal, adding: “No new superior arguments were proffered here to warrant a departure from the decision in the case of Sani earlier decided.  

“This appeal fails and it is hereby dismissed. Parties to bear their costs.” The appeal was against the 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 the Federal High Court, Kaduna, earlier given in favour of Ali Abacha.  

Ali Abacha had instigated a legal action at the lower court, challenging among others, the 1999 decision by the President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration to request the freezing of all accounts traced to the late Abacha, his family members and relatives in the UK, Switzerland, Jersey, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.  

He prayed the court to, among others, void the freezing of the accounts on the grounds that the attorney general of the federation 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 countries 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 and granted all the reliefs sought.   The decision was, however, appealed by the attorney general of the federation, as the sole defendant, at the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division.

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