Friday, June 11, 2010

Abacha's sons sue government over trial abroad

Two sons of the late head of the military government, General Sani Abacha, Mohammed and Abba, have sued the Federal Government before a Federal High Court, Abuja, challenging the circumstances that led to the criminal case initiated against the family in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Abacha sons said statements used as evidence against them in the court were not obtained lawfully by the Special Investigation Panel (SIP) raised by the government.

The Federal Government had challenged the competence of the suit, describing it as "frivolous, utterly baseless and completely misconceived".

In the originating summons, the plaintiffs want the court to restrain the defendant from providing mutual assistance or requests for mutual assistance to any country based on the evidence (oral or documentary) obtained by or under the investigations of the SIP.

Apart from the sons of the late general, 24 corporate bodies are listed as plaintiffs.

The attorney general of the federation and minister of justice is the sole defendant.

In the heat of the investigation, statements were taken from the plaintiffs by the investigative panel led by an Assistant Commissioner of Police, Peter Gana.

But the plaintiffs are claiming that they "were not informed that the true purpose for which their statements were sought was to provide evidence for an investigation and their possible prosecution by the states of Jersey, the Authorities of Leichtenstein, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, France, the Bahamas and Switzerland.

"The plaintiffs were not advised on their right to consult a legal practitioner of their choice before making statements" before the SIP.

"No caution whatsoever was administered to the plaintiffs prior to the making of statements before the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Peter Gana.

They also want the court to restrain defendant from bringing or continuing any civil or criminal proceedings in Nigeria of foreign jurisdictions against the Plaintiffs based on the statements.

Besides, the plaintiffs are aggrieved that government reneged on its promised not to prosecute the family even after they had forfeited some $625,263,187.19 and 70,087,184.93 pounds as well as some assets in line with Decree 53, 1999.

According to them, the then Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN) in line with Decree 53, 1999 had written the Swiss Authorities on November 1, 1999, saying "no civil or criminal proceedings shall be instituted in any court against them in Nigeria".

To them, "following the promulgation of Decree 53, the work of the Special Investigation panel came to an end".

But the government through a notice of preliminary objection brought pursuant to Order 29 Rule 1 and 2 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2009 and Section 2 of the Public Officers Protection Act CAP P41, 2004, has asked the court to dismiss the suit.

It said the suit is statute barred because it was not filed within three months that the cause of action arose, adding that the court lacks the jurisdiction to hear the suit.


Related stories: Sani Abacha's son convicted in Geneva, Swiss authorities’ confiscate $350m 

 Sani Abacha's son getting into politics

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