Abacha loses as Supreme Court dismisses case seeking end to forfeiture proceedings

January 14, 2023
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The Supreme Court yesterday dismissed an appeal brought before it by members of the family of the late General Sani Abacha seeking to stop moves to re-open the criminal forfeiture proceedings against the ex-Head of State and some members of his family over their alleged complicity in the looting of the nation’s treasury during the Abacha regime.

In a unanimous judgment read by Justice Emmanuel Agim, the apex court held that the concurrent findings of facts and in the matter were unassailable and consequently dismissed the appeal.

The court ordered parties in the suit to bear the cost of the legal action.
It would be recalled that a five-member panel of Justices of the court had last year fixed the January 13, 2023 date for the judgment after counsel to parties in the matter made their final submissions and adopted their briefs of arguments.

The appeal marked: SC/641/2013 was filed by the eldest surviving son of the late Abacha, Mohammed and his brother, Abba (for themselves and on behalf of the family of late General Abacha).

Listed as respondents were the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Inspector General of Police (IGP), DCP P. Y. Hana (Chairman, Special Investigation Panel), the National Security Adviser (NSA) and Magistrate Sonja Nachbaur (of the Principality of Liechtenstein).

The appeal was against the July 25, 2013, judgment by the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division, which affirmed the judgment given by the Federal High Court in Kaduna on June 26, 2009, rejecting a suit by the Abacha family, on the grounds of lack of locus standi (the legal capacity to approach the court on the subject matter of the suit).

The President Olusegun Olusegun Obasanjo administration in 1999 made allegations of criminal misappropriation of funds against the late Gen. Abacha, members of his family and some companies linked with them.

Based on the allegations, the then AGF, acting for the Federal Government, made a request to the government of the Principality of Liechtenstein for mutual assistance and to initiate criminal proceedings of forfeiture against members of the Abacha family and companies in which they have interests.
 
At a point in the proceedings before the Princely Court of Liechtenstein, the government of Liechtenstein requested the relocation of the court sitting to the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) in Nigeria to enable Magistrate Sonja Nachbaur take further evidence from some identified Nigerian witnesses.

Following Nigerian government’s granting of the request for the proceedings to be moved to Nigeria, DCP P. Y. Gana issued summons to witnesses to appear before Magistrate Nachbaur (a Magistrate of the Principality of Liechtenstein), who was to sit as a court in the territory of Nigeria.

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