The Supreme Court has again refused the request by Ali Abacha, a brother to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, to unfreeze the accounts traced to him and relatives of the late Abacha in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Jersey, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.
In a unanimous judgment delivered on Friday by a five-man panel of the court, the apex court 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.
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 delivered in February 2020, it has no reason to depart from its reasoning in the case brought by Mister Abba Mohammed Sani on behalf of the Abacha family.
The appeal was against the July 19, 2010 unanimous judgment of the Court of Appeal, Kaduna division, in which a three-man panel set aside the September 24, 2004 judgment by Justice Mohammed Liman of Federal High Court, Kaduna, earlier given in favour of Ali Abacha.
Ali Abacha had filed several suits at the Federal High Court, Kaduna in 2004, challenging among others, the 1999 decision by the Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, acting through the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Kanu Agabi (SAN), to request the freezing of all accounts traced to the late Abacha, his family members and relatives in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Jersey, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg.
As Ebonyi state marks its 24th anniversary, the state government has named its new presidential lodge after the late Military Head of State General Sani Abacha.
The state governor, David Umahi disclosed this during a live broadcast in Abakaliki the Ebonyi state capital, the Governor says the move is to honour and immortalize late General Sani Abacha.
The Governor stated that it is important to pay tribute to the founding fathers of Ebonyi state, noting that late General Sani Abacha sat and presided over the creation of the state and must be highly honoured.
He also acknowledged the sacrifices of other Elder statesmen who ensured that the creation of the state was a reality.
As Ebonyi marks the 24th anniversary and Nigeria at 60, Governor Umahi appreciated the cooperation and relationship between the three arms of government in the state.
He also extolled the supports of Ebonyians, stressing that so much has been achieved in the state with the massive infrastructural development which has attracted investors globally.
Ebonyi was one of the six states created in 1996 by the then federal military government of General Sani Abacha.
It was created from parts of both Enugu and Abia States, which were the Abakaliki division from Enugu State and the Afikpo division from Abia State respectively.
The Nigerian government has received $311,797,866.11 recovered assets of General Sani Abacha repatriated from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
The Attorney-General of Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, confirmed this on Monday in a statement by the Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations at his office, Dr Umar Gwandu.
According to Malami, the amount increased significantly from over $308 million mentioned in an earlier statement in February to over $311million as a result of the interest that accrued from February 3 to April 28, when the fund was transferred to the Central Bank of Nigeria.
He noted that the litigation process for the return of the assets titled ‘Abacha III’ commenced in 2014 while the diplomatic process that culminated in the signing of the Asset Return Agreement commenced in 2018.
The agreement was signed on February 3 by the governments of Nigeria, the United States, and the Bailiwick of Jersey.
“This Agreement is based on international law and cooperation measures, that sets out the procedures for the repatriation, transfer, disposition, and management of the assets,” he said.
According to the statement, the recovery effort consolidates on the record of the Muhammadu Buhari administration which has a history of recovery of $322m from Switzerland in 2018.
It added that the recovered loots were transparently and judiciously deployed in supporting indigent Nigerians as specified in the agreement signed with Switzerland and the World Bank.
Malami, who led the negotiation team, noted that the tripartite agreement and the process towards the implementation represented a major watershed in International Asset Recovery and Repatriation as it sought to provide benefit to the victims of corruption.
He said, “In line with the 2020 Asset Return Agreement, the fund has been transferred to a Central Bank of Nigeria Asset Recovery designated account and would be paid to the National Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) within the next fourteen days.
“The NSIA is responsible for the management and execution of the projects to which the funds will be applied.”
The minister insisted that the latest recovery would support and assist in expediting the construction of three major infrastructure projects across Nigeria – Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, Abuja – Kano Road, and the Second Niger Bridge.
He revealed that the government was in the process of establishing a Project Monitoring Team to oversee the implementation of the projects and report regularly on progress made to the public.
In order to ensure transparent management of the returned assets, Malami said the government would engage a Civil Society Organisation who has combined expertise in substantial infrastructure projects, civil engineering, anti-corruption compliance, anti-human trafficking compliance, and procurement to provide additional monitoring and oversight.
He noted that the process for the engagement of the CSO monitor has already commenced with the adverts placed in two local newspapers.
The recovered funds, according to the minister, were laundered through the U.S. banking system and then held in bank accounts in the Bailiwick of Jersey.
He revealed that a U.S. Federal Court in Washington D.C. forfeited the money in 2014, as property involved in the illicit laundering of the proceeds of corruption arising in Nigeria during the period when General Abacha was Head of State from 1993 to 1998.
Malami added that in 2017, the Nigerian government filed a case in the Bailiwick of Jersey to assert its authority as the owner of the funds and as the victim of the action of General Abacha.
He, therefore, called for greater cooperation and mutual respect among countries in the implementation of expeditious cooperation measures already set out in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, and in the implementation of the Global Forum on Asset Recovery (GFAR) principles on the repatriation of stolen assets.
The minister assured Nigerians that the government would ensure that the returned assets were transparently managed.
Although he didn’t mention any name, most Nigerians believe Soyinka was referring to the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha (retd.), who detained Abiola for years until his death in 1998 when he attempted to reclaim his mandate as president.
He said, “l will like to make a request. Mr President, since we are honouring heroes of democracy today, l will like to request that you manage to stop creating confusion in the minds of Nigerians. It is not possible to honour MKO Abiola in one breadth and admire his tormentor in another breadth.”
Earlier, at the ceremony, President Buhari formally conferred a posthumous national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on Abiola, the highest award in the land.
He had also honoured Abiola’s running mate in the election, Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, and late respected human rights activist, Gani Fawahinmi, with the national award of Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON).
The President had also tendered an apology to the Abiola family and others who lost their loved ones to the June 12 struggle.
On his part, Professor Soyinka noted that while he accepts President’s Buhari’s apology on behalf of Nigerians, he should stop confusing the people about his loyalty.
He said, “Most of what l wanted to say have been actually knocked off my mouth by one singular gesture – the presidential apology. It is a dimension which l did not expect from today’s ceremony.”
“Loyalty is all very well but loyalty can become perverse if that loyalty is retained to an individual who if he were alive today would be before the International Court of Crimes against humanity,” the Nobel laureate added.
He further accused the said tormentor of breaking the laws of the country and international laws, as well as committing crimes against humanity.
Hall Of Shame
Soyinka recalled a private conversation he once had with President Buhari during which he raised the issue of honouring “a notorious corrupt ruler” by one of the most important avenues (major roads) in the nation’s capital.
He stated that the response he got from the President was not too satisfactory, stressing that the martyrs of the June 12 struggle and Nigeria’s philanthropists should be honoured in place of corrupt persons.
In this regard, the professor asked the government to “Inaugurate our Hall of Shame, so that as we have our Hall of Heroes, on the one hand, we can also have our Hall of Shame as a lesson to the future generation.”
He added: “l do not agree that this is closure to the events of June 12.
“There are far too many traumatised individuals walking around the streets, pauperised individuals as a result of the policies and attitudes of one of the most brutal dictators, in fact, the most brutal dictator that this country has ever known.”
Switzerland announced on Monday that around $321 million public funds looted by former Nigerian military ruler, Sani Abacha will be returned to Nigeria.
The money, originally deposited in Luxembourg, was confiscated by a Swiss court in late 2014 and in March last year, the two states signed an agreement on its repatriation.
“In accordance with the policy on repayment of national assets taken illegally, Switzerland has agreed with Nigeria and the World Bank to return nearly US$321 million for the benefit of the Nigerian people,” the Swiss government said in a statement.
Military ruler Abacha, in power from 1993 until his death in 1998, is suspected to have embezzled $2.2 billion from Nigeria’s central bank in what the United States has called “brazen acts of kleptocracy.”
The Swiss statement said these funds were frozen in a legal procedure by Geneva’s public prosecutor against Abba Abacha, Sani Abacha’s son.
It said the return of the funds would be supported and supervised by the World Bank, adding that the move should “strengthen social security for the poorest Nigerians”.
When the agreement was announced, Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter had said the fight against corruption was “one of Switzerland’s priorities”.
Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has led a purge of corruption since taking office in 2015, vowing to recover what he said were “mind-boggling” sums of money stolen over decades.
A federal lawmaker, Senator Dino Melaye, has joined many other Nigerians in advocating the recognition of June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day.
He was speaking on Channels Television’s political programme, Sunday Politics, as Nigerians marked the 23rd anniversary of the June 12, 1993 presidential election widely acclaimed to be the freest and fairest in the country’s history.
The poll is believed to have been won by business mogul and philanthropist, Chief Moshood Abiola but was annulled by the then military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida.
Chief Abiola later died in custody on July 7, 1998 following his arrest and detention by the regime of General Sani Abacha, for attempting to actualise his mandate.
Senator Melaye said, “Without gainsaying, one will say that it is mandatory, pertinent and obligatory and it is a bitter necessity that as a government and as a people, we do recognise the historical significance of June 12.
“I am one of the advocates of declaring that day as our Democracy Day because it has a lot of historical and revolutionary value.
“I will support that that day be declared our Democracy Day and we should continue to herald that, we should continue to agitate that and I’m sure someday sometime, reason and logic will come to play.”
Struggle For Emancipation
He said that the reason why June 12 is not yet recognised nationally is because most politicians or people in government do not understand the significance of the day.
Melaye said that not every Nigeria politician is a democrat, “Only democrats will understand the significance of June 12.
“But when those who do not even believe in the tenets and doctrines of democracy find themselves in position of authority, they may not actually recognise the struggle that brought about the June 12 victory.”
Speaking further on the significance of June 12 if recognised as Democracy Day, Senator Melaye explained, “Every struggle has the impetus to propel people to the next level. Today most public holidays in the United States of America are significant and have positive concomitant effects with some revolutionary struggle.
“The June 12 struggle for me was a struggle for emancipation, freedom and departure from the old order and giving it that historical resonance by recognising that date will have a resultant effect on Nigeria’s political evolution now and in the future.”
The story of Chief Ernest Shonekan’s life is one centered on merit, humility and service to humanity, and that was re-echoed when the British-trained lawyer, industrialist, Baba Isale of Egbaland and former Interim President of Nigeria turned 80.
The celebrant, who takes his Christian faith seriously together with his dear wife Margret and their lovely children, began the special birthday event with a thanksgiving service at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina in Lagos
The occasion saw several important guests honouring Chief Shonekan in a service officiated by the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh.
The special guests include former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon and wife Victoria; former Vice President, Chief Alex Ekwueme and wife Helen; Governor of Ogun State, Ibikunle Amosun and wife Olufunso, the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Idiat Adegbule.
Others are former Minister of Defence, General Theophilus Danjuma and wife Senator Daisy; Chairman of FCMB, Otunba Shubomi Balogun and wife Adebutu; and the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Micheal Adedotun Gbadebo amongst others
Indeed, it was a special day as they joined him on the altar for thanksgiving and then sang a special birthday song for him.
Students from his Alma Mata, CMS Grammar School Lagos, also did a special presentation in his honour.
The social part of the celebration kicked off right away with veteran juju music maestro, Ebenezer Obey, dishing out some of his evergreen tunes in honour of the celebrant and to the delight of his A-list guests.
More important guests joined the party, like ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo; the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi and wife Olori Wuraola; former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, and former Governor of Lagos, Chief Mobolaji Johnson.
Business mogul, Chief Razaq Okoya and wife Shade; Justice George Oguntade and wife; Chairman of Doyin Group, Mr Samuel Adedoyin; and the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Relations and Diaspora, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, also shared in the fun.
Chief Ernest Shonekan was born on the May 9, 1936 in Lagos. He is a British-trained lawyer, industrialist, and was the former Chief Executive of the United African Company of Nigeria Plc (UAC), before he was appointed as Interim President of Nigeria by General Ibrahim Babangida on August 26, 1993.
Chief Shonekan’s transitional administration only lasted three months before General Sani Abacha took over on November 17, 1993.
Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday urged the World Bank to do all within its powers to facilitate the speedy repatriation to Nigeria’s of stolen funds still being held by Swiss authorities.
At a meeting with the visiting Managing Director of the World Bank, Ms. Sri Indrawati, President Buhari said that the repatriation of the additional $320 million in Switzerland, which had been identified as illegally taken from Nigeria under the Abacha administration, would help to ease the nation’s current economic hardship.
The President assured Ms Indrawati that his administration was taking appropriate steps to ensure that public funds were no longer stolen or misappropriated by government officials.
“We need the support of the World Bank for the repatriation of the funds.
“We are as concerned as the World Bank about accountability. If such repatriated funds have been misapplied in the past, I assure you that the same will not happen with us.
“Three hundred and twenty million dollars is a lot of money and we will not allow it to be misappropriated or diverted,” President Buhari told Ms. Indrawati.
Swiss Authorities Conditions
One of the conditions given by the Swiss Authorities for the repatriation of the funds is that it should be expended on the implementation of social programmes for the benefit of the Nigerian people in an efficient and accountable way, guaranteed by the monitoring of the World Bank.
A statement by the President’s spokesman, Mr Garba Shehu, said President Buhari also assured the World Bank Managing Director that his administration would honour all agreements with the Bank that would help to stimulate Nigeria’s economy and reduce the level of poverty.
He said that Nigeria would welcome greater international assistance for the rehabilitation of damaged homes, schools, health facilities and other infrastructure in the North Eastern states affected by the Boko Haram insurgency.
Ms Indrawati told President Buhari that the World Bank was ready to use its knowledge, expertise and resources to help Nigeria achieve faster growth and development.
“We will strongly support you to create jobs and ensure prosperity in Nigeria,” the World Bank Managing Director assured President Buhari.
She also expressed the World Bank’s full support for the war against corruption being waged by the Buhari Administration.
The Federal Government has welcomed an offer of the Swiss government to return $321m stolen funds from Nigeria under the Abacha government.
This was contained in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant Media and Publicity to the Vice President, Laolu Akande.
The statement added that the Federal Government “is now developing a framework that will aid the repatriation of such stolen assets starched abroad by those who have looted from the country’s resources in the past”.
Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), made this disclosure today at the Presidential Villa, Abuja during a meeting with a Swiss delegation led by the country’s Federal Councillor and Head of its Foreign Affairs Department, Mr. Didier Burkhalter and the Swiss Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Eric Mayoruz.
“We guarantee that recovered assets would be put to uses for which they have been intended,” according to the Vice President who explained that the framework being developed would ensure exactly that.
Prof. Osinbajo said the framework once finalized will be made available publicly, and it would cover the whole spectrum from the source of the stolen asset to how it would be managed once recovered.
He said “the framework will guarantee that returned assets will be used in the interest of the people of this country.”
Commending the Swiss government on its assistance in repatriating the country’s stolen assets, the Vice President said the federal government appreciates the Swiss government for their very laudable efforts, noting that the “Swiss has always been at the forefront of returning stolen assets and ensuring that the people of Nigeria gets the benefit.”
Later the Attorney-General of the Federation and Justice Minister, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), signed an agreement described as a “Letter of Intent” between the Swiss government and the Nigerian government on the restitution of illegally-acquired assets forfeited in Switzerland.
Mr. Burkhalter signed the letter for the Swiss government.
Under the agreement the Swiss government will award to Nigeria $321m “of funds illicitly acquired by the Abacha family, initially deposited in Luxembourg and confiscated by the Judiciary of the Republic and Canton of Geneva pursuant to a Forfeiture order dated 11th December 2014.”
Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has been explaining the transfer of 300 million US dollars and 5.5 million pounds to the former National Security Adviser, Retired Col. Sambo Dasuki.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, in a statement by her media adviser, Mr Paul Nwachukwu, condemned what she described as a campaign of falsehood being carried out against her by the Edo State Governor and others who have called on the federal government to probe her in connection with the arms procurement scandal.
He added that the allegations are a distortion of the contents of a memo in which the former minister responded to a request by the former NSA.
In the memo to former President Goodluck Jonathan requesting his approval to transfer the funds to Mr. Dasuki, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala stated that as explained by the former NSA, the money was to be used to procure ammunition, security and other intelligence equipment for the security agencies to enable them fight the war against Boko Haram.
Part of the memo reads: “They have distorted the contents of the January 20 memo in which she responded to a request by the former National Security Adviser and quoted selectively from the document to make their false allegations of “illegal diversion” of funds.
“For your information and a fuller understanding of the issues, please see the attached January 20 memo by Dr Okonjo-Iweala as published by some online sites. It confirms that Dr Okonjo-Iweala is a transparent person of integrity and patriotic professional who worked hard to protect the interest of the country and that her accusers are purveyors of falsehood on a political mission to tarnish an innocent patriot,” Paul Nwachukwu wrote.
Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had on Wednesday (December 9) dismissed allegations that she illegally authorised the diversion of recently recovered Abacha loot during the administration of former president, Goodluck Jonathan.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala described the allegation as “part of a campaign of falsehood” to “tarnish her image” in a statement by her media adviser, Paul Nwabuikwu.
The former minister noted that the contents of the memo dated January 20, 2015 in which she responded to a request by the former National Security Adviser, Col Ibrahim Dasuki (retired) for funds to prosecute the war against Boko Haram, was “distorted”.
To set the records straight, the statement maintained that “the central responsibility of the Minister of Finance is to find sources of funding for the financing of approved national priorities such as security, job creation and infrastructure”.
The December 9 statement also “recalled that throughout 2014, there were public complaints by the military hierarchy to President Goodluck Jonathan about the inadequacy of funds to fight the anti-terror war in the North East, resulting in Boko Haram making gains and even taking territories. A lot of the criticism was directed at the Federal Ministry of Finance under Dr Okonjo-Iweala which was accused of not doing enough to find funds for the operations.
Find a copy of Dr Okonjo-Iweala’s January 20 memo published as obtained by Channels Television.
Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has dismissed allegations that she illegally authorised the diversion of recently recovered Abacha loot during the administration of former president, Goodluck Jonathan.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala described the allegation as “part of a campaign of falsehood” to “tarnish her image” in a statement on Wednesday by her media adviser, Paul Nwabuikwu.
The former minister noted that the contents of a memo dated January 20, 2015 in which she responded to a request by the former National Security Adviser, Col Ibrahim Dasuki (retired) for funds to prosecute the war against Boko Haram, was “distorted”.
To set the records straight, the statement maintained that “the central responsibility of the Minister of Finance is to find sources of funding for the financing of approved national priorities such as security, job creation and infrastructure”.
The statement also “recalled that throughout 2014, there were public complaints by the military hierarchy to President Goodluck Jonathan about the inadequacy of funds to fight the anti-terror war in the North East, resulting in Boko Haram making gains and even taking territories. A lot of the criticism was directed at the Federal Ministry of Finance under Dr Okonjo-Iweala which was accused of not doing enough to find funds for the operations.
“In fact, the Ministry, on several occasions, had to call press conferences to provide details of budgetary spending on the military, to show, against the background of limited resources and other urgent national priorities, that it was doing its best on funding security.
“It was about this time that some new Abacha funds of about $322m were returned with another $700m still expected to be returned. (This is not to be confused with the Abacha funds returned in 2005-2006 under the Obasanjo government whose use for developmental purposes was monitored by the World Bank as earlier explained by Dr Okonjo-Iweala), the statement said.
It further noted that “former President Jonathan set up a Committee comprising of the former Minister of Justice, former NSA and the former Minister of Finance to determine how best to use both the returned and expected funds for development.
“The NSA made a case for using the returned funds for urgent security operations since, he noted, there cannot be any development without peace and security. Based on this, a decision was taken to deploy about $322m for the military operations, while the expected $700m would be applied for development programmes as originally conceived.
“Following the discussions and based on the urgency of the NSA’s memo, Dr Okonjo-Iweala requested the President to approve the transfer of the requested amount to the NSA’s Office for the specified purposes”.
Mr Nwabuikwu maintained that “she insisted on three conditions: a. only a part, not the entire Abacha funds would be spent on the arms; the rest would be invested in developmental projects as originally conceived b. the money was to be treated as borrowed funds which would be paid back as soon as possible c. the NSA’s office was to account for the spending to the President who was the Commander in Chief, given the fact that the Minister of Finance is not part of the security architecture and does not participate in the Security Council”.
He insisted that “the attempt to link the former Minister’s name to any misuse of these funds for any purpose other than security as far as she understood it is totally false and cannot stand.
Dr Okonjo-Iweala is alleged to have illegally approved the transfer of at least N61.4 billion ($300 million and £5.5 million) from funds recovered from late dictator, Sani Abacha, to the Office of the National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, for “urgent security needs”.