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Gen. Abubakar Refers US Trial To US Supreme Court

Posted by From LAOLU AKANDE, NEW YORK and CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, LAGOS on 2005/12/18 | Views: 580 |

Gen. Abubakar Refers US Trial To US Supreme Court

THE stakes are getting higher in the human rights violation case in the United States against General Abdusalami Abubakar , as the immediate past Nigerian head recently referred the matter to the highest judicial organ in the United States - the Supreme Court in Washington DC.

THE stakes are getting higher in the human rights violation case in the United States against General Abdusalami Abubakar , as the immediate past Nigerian head recently referred the matter to the highest judicial organ in the United States - the Supreme Court in Washington DC.

The Guardian learnt that the US Supreme Court has already docketted the case with file number 05A171 on the request of General Abubakar.

It seems the former head of state has adopted a two-track strategy to bring the case to a closure after three years of legal debate and preliminary litigations on the case brought against him by Chief Anthony Enahoro, Dr. Arthur Nwankwo and Hafsat Abiola on behalf of her deceased parents, Chief M.K.O Abiola and Alhaja Kudirat Abiola.

Besides referring the case to the US Supreme Court, Abubakar's second strategy, according to his latest court filing, is to challenge the credibility of the plaintiffs' lawyer, Kayode Oladele: that perhaps Chief Enahoro and Hafsat Abiola are actually not interested in the case as Oladele has submitted.

Abubakar and his lawyers have, in the last four years, fought the human rights violation case on several preliminary grounds including an argument that Abubakar as a Nigerian ruler had sovereign immunity. And while the US District Court handling the case in Chicago has ruled that Abubakar does have immunity as head of state, he only had such protection for the short period when he was head of state.

Abubakar's lawyers, led by Washington DC-based Nigerian Emeka Ugwuonye, has sought to dismiss the case on different grounds without success. Now, they have moved to table the case at the US Supreme Court to determine the preliminary issue of whether a former head of state from a foreign country can be tried in the US, especially as, in the view of the defendant, the opportunity to do so in Nigeria has not been exhausted.

A challenge of the participation of some of the plaintiffs has been made by General Abubakar.

In a Status Report filed on the orders of the lower court Judge after Abubakar's latest motion for dismissal was thrown out by US Judge Mathew F. Kennelly and upheld by a panel of three US Appeals Court judges, Ugwuonye is arguing that "right from inception, the defendant was convinced that this case was politically motivated and that the American court system was being abusively interjected into a political game plan in Nigeria."

Abubakar's lawyer reported to the court that based on information available to his client, "it was clear that the actual plaintiffs might have been maniplulated by Mr. Oladele into involvement in this case."

According to Abubakar's lawyer, "this fear was strengthened by the fact that soon after the lawsuit was filed in Michigan, several of the original plaintiffs called defendant - (Abubakar) to state that they had nothing to do with the case."

Ugwuonye, however, did not mention names of such plaintiffs, but added that after Oladele was made aware of the claim that several of the plaintiffs called Abubakar to say they knew nothing of the case, "he was forced to amend his complaint in Michigan for the purpose of only dropping several of the original plaintiffs, i.e those who had called to protest the use of their names as plaintiffs in this suit."

It would be recalled that this case was intiated in Michigan before it was moved to Chicago, where Abubakar was actually served with the summons in February 2001. Then, included on the list of plaintiffs were names including Chief Gani Fawehinmi, whose name was later dropped as a plaintiff.

Ugwuonye submitted that "till today, the level of involvement of the remaining plaintiffs is still questionable."

In their own report, the plaintiffs' lawyer ignored the allegations of the defendant's counsel insisting that such matters raised by the defendant's lawyer were irrelevant and are not meant for the Status Report as ordered by the Judge. But, speaking with The Guardian, Oladele said the claims are wild and unfounded.

The issue now is "whether the Court should set a firm trial date at the first scheduling conference or should provide that a trial date will be set at the pre-trial conference from 30 days after that conference," he said. In addition, Oladele told the court, that the plaintiffs "are not aware of any additional matters."

Apparently, both lawyers submitted their Status Reports at the same time with one unaware of the contents in the other's report until after the submission of the reports.

Abubakar's lawyer submitted his own report on December 7, 2005, while Oladele submitted his on December 2, 2005

The Guardian found out, on independent investigation, that the trio of

Enahoro, Nwankwo and Hafsat Abiola are still interested in the case. Hafsat Abiola told The Guardian last week that there was no truth in General Abubakar's lawyer's claim that the three plaintiffs were no longer interested in the case.

"I don't want to speak for Pa Enahoro and Dr Arthur Nwankwo, but the last time I talked to them on the matter they were still very much interested in the case," she said. "I want to fight for my parents. There is nothing that will make me lose interest in the case."

Although the case has now been docketted at the US Supreme Court, filling has not been made yet and no date has since been fixed, but the filing is the first indication that General Abubakar is set to proceed to the US Supreme Court to stop his trial for the human rights violations of Chief Enahoro and Dr. Nwankwo and the wrongful death of Chief M.K.O Abiola in a US court.

When the case is heard in the Supreme Court, it would be the first time two Nigerian lawyers would be appearing before the US highest court for plaintiffs and defendant.

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