By Enyichukwu Enemanna
Nigeria’s Supreme Court on Friday threw out an appeal seeking to stop the re-opening the criminal forfeiture proceedings against the late ex-Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha and some members of his family on allegations bordering on looting of the nation’s treasury during his regime as the country’s head of military junta.
The appeal with number: 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).
Nigeria’s 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) were all listed as respondents in the suit.
Counsel to parties in the matter had last year made their final submissions and adopted their briefs of arguments after which a 5-man panel of justices of the apex court fixed the January 13, 2023 date for the judgment.
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 Abacha family had filed the appeal against the July 25, 2013, judgment by the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division, which affirmed the judgment of Federal High Court in Kaduna on June 26, 2009, rejecting a suit by the Abacha family to stop forfeiture of the looted assets by their late father, on the grounds of lack of locus standi (the legal capacity to approach the court on the subject matter of the suit).
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999 made allegations of criminal misappropriation of funds against the late Gen. Abacha, members of his family and some companies linked with them.
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.