Supreme Court dismisses Abacha family’s appeal seeking access to frozen foreign accounts

A lawsuit filed by the Sani Abacha family seeking access to the looted funds which they and the late Nigerian head of state stashed in foreign bank accounts has been dismissed by the Supreme court. 

A five-man panel led by Justice Sylvester Ngwuta dismissed the case for lacking in merit. In the lead judgment prepared by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, the Supreme court panel held that Mr Ali Abacha’s case was not different from that of his brother, Abba Mohammed Sani which was also dismissed by the apex court on February 7, 2020.

Justice Ejembi Eko who read lead judgement prepared by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, 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“In the earlier case, the contention was also that the respondents acted outside the scope of their duties under a repealed law and were therefore not entitled to seek refuge under section 2(a) of the Public Officer Protection Act.”

Justice Ekun also held that Ali Abacha’s lawsuit 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.

She added; 

“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.

“In conclusion, I find this appeal to be devoid of merit. It is hereby dismissed.”