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Loot: Abacha family loses bid to stop re-opening of asset forfeiture proceedings

The Supreme Court held that the lower courts’ concurrent findings of facts on the Abacha family’s case were "unassailable."

By Ameh Ejekwonyilo


The Supreme Court, on Friday, dismissed an appeal filed by family members of a former Nigerian dictator, the late Sani Abacha, seeking to stop proceedings aimed at recovering more loot traced to them.

Mohammed Abacha, son of the deceased dictator, sought to stop the re-opening of the criminal forfeiture proceedings against his father’s assets and those linked to some members of his family regarded as the proceeds of the looting of the nation’s treasury during Abacha’s draconian rule.

Mr Abacha, who died in office, ruled Nigeria between 1993 and 1998.

In a unanimous judgement read by Emmanuel Agim, the Supreme Court held that the lower courts’ concurrent findings of facts in the matter were “unassailable.”

Consequently, Mr Agim dismissed the appeal and ordered the parties to bear the cost of the legal action.

The appeal marked: SC/641/2013 was filed by the eldest surviving son of the deceased dictator, Mohammed, and his brother, Abba, for themselves and on behalf of their family.

The Abachas sued the 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).

The appeal was against the 25 July 2013 judgement of the Court of Appeal in Kaduna, which affirmed the judgement given by the Federal High Court in Kaduna on 26 June 2009, rejecting a suit by the Abacha family.

According to the trial court’s decision, the Abachas lack the right to approach the court on the subject matter of the case.


Former President Olusegun Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in 1999 alleged criminal misappropriation of funds against the late Abacha, members of his family and some companies linked to them.

Following the allegations, the then AGF, the late Bola Ige, 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 had 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 to 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.

Mr Obasanjo’s regime reportedly recovered over $2 billion of the Abacha loot.

“…by the time I left office in May 2007, over $2 billion and £100 million had been recovered from the Abacha family abroad, and N10 billion in cash and properties locally,” Mr Obasanjo confirmed this fact when he stated in the second volume of his book titled, ‘My Watch.’

Also, former president Goodluck Jonathan’s administration reportedly recovered $226.3 million and €7.5 million from Liechtenstein. Some £22.5 million was also repatriated to Nigeria from the Island of Jersey while $322 million and £5.5 million from the Abacha loot were reportedly returned to the government.”

President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime also recovered several millions of dollars of Abacha loot since assuming office in May 2015, including $321 million from Switzerland, and $300 million from the US and Jersey.”

In recent years, the Nigerian government recovered humongous amounts of looted funds, a large portion stolen by Mr Abacha and stashed abroad while in power.

The Premium Times, Nigeria

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