S’Court Paves Way for Fresh Criminal Forfeiture Actions against Abacha Family

S’Court Paves Way for Fresh Criminal Forfeiture Actions against Abacha Family

*FG can now recommence investigations into corruption allegations against family

Alex Enumah in Abuja

A five-man panel of the Supreme Court yesterday refused to grant a request by members of the family of the late General Sani Abacha, for the stoppage of fresh criminal forfeiture proceedings against the ex-Head of State and some members of his family.

Abacha, who ruled Nigeria between 1993 and 1998, was accused alongside some members of his family of looting the nation’s treasury.
Some of the loot starched in foreign countries such as the United States of America, United Kingdom were repatriated to the country and were deployed in various roads and rail projects by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.

Both Mohammed and Abba Abacha had in 2013, on behalf of themselves and other members of the Abacha family, approached the apex court to set aside the judgments of the Court of Appeal and a Federal High Court, which had declined to stop investigations into the allegations of corruption against the family.
After counsel to parties in the matter made their final submissions and adopted their briefs of arguments for and against the appeal, last year, the apex court subsequently fixed January 13, 2023 for judgment.

Delivering judgment in the appeal which has lasted nearly 10 years at the apex court, Justice Emmanuel Agim, who read the unanimous decision of the five-man panel held that the concurrent findings of facts in the matter are unassailable and consequently dismissed the appeal.
However, the order as to cost of the legal action was not made by the panel.

Respondents in the appeal marked: SC/641/2013, include the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), the Inspector General of Police (IG), DCP P. Y. Hana (Chairman, Special Investigation Panel), the National Security Adviser (NSA) and Magistrate Sonja Nachbaur (of the Principality of Liechtenstein).
The grouse of the appellants was that the two lower courts erred in law when they arrived at the decision that plaintiffs/ appellants lacked necessary legal authority to initiate the suit seeking to stop investigations into corruption allegations against the family.

Recall that the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division, had in July 25, 2013, affirmed the judgement of the Federal High Court, Kaduna, which on June 26, 2009, dismissed the 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).
Shortly after its inauguration in 1999, the Olusegun Obasanjo administration made allegations of criminal misappropriation of funds against the late General Abacha, members of his family and some companies said to be owned by them.

Based on the allegations, the then AGF, Kanu Agabi, 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 the 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.
Dissatisfied, the Abacha family then commenced the legal action against the respondents.

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