You cannot have access to frozen foreign accounts, Supreme Court tells Abacha family

The suit filed by the family of late military dictator, Sanni Abacha seeking access to the looted funds which they and the deceased stashed in foreign bank accounts was on Friday dismissed by the Supreme Court.

Penpushing reports that a  five-man panel led by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta dismissed the suit filed in the name of Ali Abacha  for lacking in merit, and held that the case was not different from that of a son of the late Head of State, Abba Mohammed Sani, which was earlier dismissed by the apex court on February 7, 2020.

The lead judgment prepared by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun of the Supreme Court, read by Justice Ejembi Eko of the Apex court, said, “It is pertinent to state at this juncture that a case with the same facts and issues was decided recently by this court in SC. 68/2010 Alhaji Abba Mohammed Sani Vs the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation. Judgment was delivered on February 7, 2020. It is now reported in (2020) 2-3 SC (Pt. II).

“Although the appellants are different, the facts and issues in contention are the same. Both had their bank accounts in Switzerland and other countries frozen as result of the authorisation given to the Swiss law firm by the respondents’.

“In the earlier case, the contention was also that the respondents acted outside the scope of their duties under a repealed law and were therefore not entitled to seek refuge under section 2(a) of the Public Officer Protection Act.”

The court held that as in Abba Sani’s case, the Ali Abacha’s matter too had become statute-barred and incompetent because it was not filed at the trial court within three months of the occurrence of the action complained about, thereby flouting section 2(a) of the Public Officer Protection Act.

“It is not in dispute that the suit before the trial court was filed outside the three months stipulated in section 2(a) of the Act. The only issue to be considered was whether in the circumstances, the action was maintainable. The suit was not doubt statute-barred and rightly struck out by the lower court’

“Incidentally, R.O Atabo, also represented the appellant in Sani Vs the President & Another. He has not advanced any superior argument to warrant a departure from our decision in that case. This issue is resolved against the appellant.”

Penpushing also reports that the judge ruled that it was unnecessary to go further to resolve other issues in the appeal, adding that, “in conclusion, I find this appeal to be devoid of merit. It is hereby dismissed,”

The Nigerian Military dictator, it is recalled  died  on June 8, 1998, but funds looted by him and members of his immediate family in millions of different hard currencies, were still being recovered and repatriated by the Nigerian government as of February 2020.

Penpushing reports that, the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo, on December 23, 1999 delegated the power to freeze the Abacha family’s foreign accounts under the Banking (Freezing of Accounts) Act to ex-Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Kanu Agabi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.

The mutual legal assistance initiated by Nigeria government requesting, for frozen of  the Abacha family’s bank accounts which were traced to countries such as United Kingdom, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg and Jersey recorded success.

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