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S’Court dismisses Abacha family’s appeal to access frozen foreign accounts

The Supreme Court yesterday for the second time refused the request by a brother to the late Head of State, Gen Sani Abacha, Ali Abacha to unfreeze the accounts traced to him and relatives of the late Abacha in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Jersey, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.

In a unanimous judgment, a five-man panel of the court, 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.

The judgment was in the appeal marked: SC/359/2010, filed by 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 by Justice Ejembi Eko, the court held that having dismissed a similar appeal in an easier judgment given in February last year, it has no reason to depart from its reasoning in the case brought by Abba Mohammed Sani on behalf of the Abacha family. The court said it noticed that the appellant in this appeal is represented by Reuben Atabo, who, incidentally, was the appellant’s counsel in the earlier appeal.

She said: “No new superior arguments were proffered here to warrant a departure from the decision in the case of Alhaji Sani, earlier decided. This appeal fails, and it is hereby dismissed. “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 Federal High Court, Kaduna, earlier given in favour of Ali Abacha.”

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 (AGF) 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.

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