Thursday, May 16, 2024

Abacha’s family challenges revocation of Abuja land

The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, fixed 27 June for judgment in a suit by the family of the late Nigerian military ruler, Sani Abacha, challenging the revocation of his property in the Maitama District of Abuja.

The judge, Peter Lifu, fixed the date for judgement after the lawyer to the family of the late dictator, Reuben Atabo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and those of the defendants led by James Onoja, also a SAN, adopted their processes and argued their case for and against the suit.

Mr Abacha, the partriach of the Abacha family, was a constant feature during the the dark era of military regimes between the 1980s and 1990s, variously serving as the Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Defence Staff and the Minister of Defence, until he became the Head of State in 1993.

Mr Abacha, a general, seized power from the interim national government of Ernest Shonekan on 17 November 1993 and ruled Nigeria until he died at the Presidential Villa in Abuja on 8 June 1998.

The developed piece of land in question was revoked from the family in 2006, about eight years after Mr Abacha died in office.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the suit was instituted by the widow of the late Mr Abacha, Maryam Abacha, and her eldest surviving son, Mohammed Sani Abacha.

The defendants in the suit are the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT); Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA); President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Salamed Ventures Limited as 1st to 4th respectively.

The applicants asked the court to set aside the purported revocation of the certificate of occupancy (CoO) of the property of the late Abacha located in the Maitama District.

The C of O marked FCT/ABUKN 2478 covering Plot 3119, issued on June 25, 1993, was said by the family to have been illegally and unlawfully revoked by the defendants.

How it began

In their statement of claims, the Abacha family said that the FCT, under Nasir El-Rufai, had instructed them to submit the C of O in their possession for re-certification.

They claimed that the 2nd plaintiff, Mohammed Sani Abacha, promptly complied with the directive by delivering the C of O to the FCDA and acknowledgement copy issued to him.

While waiting for a new C of O to be issued to them, Mohammed Abacha said he received a letter on 3 February 2006, notifying them that the C of O had been revoked without any reason adduced in the letter.

Besides the failure to give any reason for the revocation, the Abacha family alleged that adequate compensation was not paid as required by law.


The family therefore asked the court to declare as unconstitutional, unlawful, illegal, null and void and of no effect, the purported revocation of the property.

They sought an order of the court setting aside the purported revocation and holding that their CoO is valid and subsisting having been revoked without payment of adequate compensation.

According to them, the Certificate of Occupancy issued to the late Head of State was maliciously revoked without legal basis or justification

The plaintiffs asked for an order of injunction prohibiting the defendants from taking any further step on the disputed revocation.

Similarly, they prayed to award N500 million as damages to be paid to them by the four defendants.


However, the defendants in their separate counter-affidavits and preliminary objections, asked for outright dismissal of the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/463/2016.

The defendants claimed that the suit at the time it was instituted had become statute barred having not been filed within time allowed by law, among other arguments.

Although, some of the defendants were not in court at Wednesday’s proceedings, the judge, Mr Lifu invoked the rule of the court in adopting their processes already filed.


Mr Abacha ruled Nigeria with an iron fist between 1993 and 1998, when he suddenly died in office.

He seized power on 17 November 1993 after he dislodged the Ernest Shonekan-led interim government installed by the regime of Ibrahim Babangida.

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