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The Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, CACOL, has hailed the Supreme Court for refusing the request by Alhaji Ali Abacha, a brother to the late Head of State, Sani Abacha, to unfreeze accounts traced to him and relatives of the late Abacha in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Jersey, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.

In a press release issued by the anti-graft coalition’s Director, Administration and Programmes, Mr. Tola Oresanwo on behalf of its Chairman, Mr. Debo Adeniran, he noted, “It would be recalled that in a unanimous judgment on Friday, 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 commenced in April 2004, at the Federal High Court in Kaduna. The judgment was in the appeal marked: SC/359/2010, filed by Alhaji 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 on Friday by Justice Ejembi Eko, the court held that, having dismissed a similar appeal in an earlier judgment given in February last year, it had no reason to depart from its reasoning in that case brought by Alhaji Abba Mohammed Sani on behalf of the Abacha family”.

The erudite Jurists affirmed that “No new or 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 by the late dictator’s brother was against a 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 Alhaji Ali Abacha.

The ex-dictator’s brother 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 then Attorney General of the Federation 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.The decision was later overturned by the Court of Appeal. In their judgment of July 19, 2010, Justices John Inyang Okoro, Baba Alikali Ba’aba and Mohammed Lawal Garba of the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division, unanimously held that the suit was statute-barred and overturned the decision of the high court, which favoured the Abachas. But the unsatisfied Ali Abacha appealed to the Supreme Court, and eventually lost on Friday.

We at CACOL hereby commend the judiciary for this noble judgment. We believe though Abacha’s family members have the right to fair hearing and they can pursue their case from the lower court to the Apex court as they have done in this case but we want to commend the intellectual sagacity and the deep legal insight displayed by the jurists in this case. They have laid a very good foundation for future legal jurisprudence

If the case had gone the other way, family members of other national treasury looters and those we commonly referred to as “Convicts of the Federal Republic (CFR)” i.e Convicted Publicly Exposed Persons would have approached the courts to unfreeze their accounts so that they can embark on spending spree of the commonwealth of millions of impoverished Nigerians.

The CACOL’S Chief added, “We all know that this country is where it is today as a result of corruption in high places which is primarily in form of looting of treasury fuelled by sheer greed. It is against this background that we are advocating for more stringent punishments and sanctions against those looters and thieves who continually perpetrate these heists with the belief that grand corruption is still a bailable offence in Nigeria and so, they could easily get away with it.

Tola Oresanwo

Director, Administration and Programmes, CACOL.

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