By Eric Ikhilae, Abuja
A fresh move by the family of the late military head of state, General Sani Abacha, to unfreeze foreign accounts traced to him and relatives crashed on Friday with the Supreme Court declining the request.
Younger brother of the deceased, Alhaji Ali Abacha, had approached the apex bank to unfreeze the accounts domiciled in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Jersey, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.
A five-man panel of the court, in a unanimous judgment , held that Ali Abacha’s case was statute barred as at when it was commenced in April 2004 at the Federal High Court in Kaduna.
The judgment was in the appeal marked: SC/359/2010.
In the lead judgment prepared by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, but read by Justice Ejembi Eko, the court held that having dismissed a similar appeal in an earlier judgment in February last year, it has no reason to depart from its reasoning in that case brought by Alhaji Abba Mohammed Sani on behalf of the Abacha family.
The court said it noticed that the appellant in this appeal is represented by R. O. Atabo esq, who, incidentally, was the appellant’s counsel in the earlier appeal.
According to court documents, the then President, Olusegun Obasanjo, in December 1999, authorised the then AGF, Agabi to request the Swiss authorities to freeze all bank accounts held in its jurisdiction by the late Head of State, General Abacha, his children, servants, agents and any other individuals or companies liked to them between 1993 and 1998.
Government was also said to have requested the Swiss authorities to seize and detain all banking and other documents relating to the affected accounts, charge and prosecute all holders of such accounts in order to recover and pay over to the Federal Government of Nigeria all monies falsely and fraudulently taken from the government and people of Nigeria.
Similarly, the FG was said to have engaged a foreign financial investigator, Enrico Monfrini of Hauchomann & Bottage in Geneva, Switzerland, to assist in recovering “all looted monies by Gen. Abacha and his family members and other public servants and third parties who have used their position or participated as accomplices to misappropriate public funds.”
Following these steps by the Federal Government, the accounts of the Abachas found in Switzerland, United Kingdom, Jersey, Liechenstein and Luxembourg were frozen; a development members of the late head of state challenged by filing a suit, marked: FHC/KN/CS/6/2004, on January 28, 2004 before the Federal High Court, Kano.