By Babajide Okeowo
An attempt by the family of Nigeria’s late dictator, General Sani Abacha to access looted funds that had been stashed in Swiss and other foreign bank accounts has been thrown out by the Supreme Court for lacking in merit.
The apex court in Nigeria held that the appeal filed by Ali Abacha was not different from that of a son of the ex-dictator, Abba Mohammed Sani, which was earlier dismissed by the apex court on February 7, 2020.
Consequently, the suit was dismissed by a five-man panel led by Sylvester Ngwuta on Friday.
Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, a Justice of the Supreme Court, who prepared the lead judgment, held that Ali Abacha’s case was not different from that of a son of the ex-dictator, Abba Mohammed Sani, which was earlier dismissed by the apex court on February 7, 2020.
“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 a 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In the earlier case, the contention was also that the respondents acted outside the scope of their duties under a repealed law and were therefore not entitled to seek refuge under section 2(a) of the Public Officer Protection Act” the judgement read.
The apex 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 in no 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,” she ruled.