$550m Abacha Loot: US Court Clears Way For Repatriation
A United States District Court, at the weekend, dismissed a case by a Nigerian lawyer seeking to stop the repatriation of over $550 million of stolen funds during the regime of late General Sani Abacha (referred to as the Abacha loot) to Nigeria until the payment of his purported legal fees put at $320 million by the Federal Government.
The thrashing of the case by Justice John D. Bates of the U.S District Court, automatically clears the final legal hurdle for the return of the loot to Nigeria to help it retool its plummeting economy, which has received heavy pummelling from falling oil prices and corruption.
The US-based Nigerian lawyer, Godson Nnaka, had laid claim to the fact that the Federal Government must pay him $320 million as legal fee for the forfeiture of the $550 million of the Abacha loot still trapped in the United States.
But Justice John D. Bates, in dismissing Nnaka’s case, held that the claimant was not entitled to such payment since he was not a party to the forfeiture case filed by the US Department of Justice in conjunction with the Federal Government.
The Federal Government, through the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, also filed a robust opposition to Nnaka’s motion for the payment of the lien, and also asked the court to bar Nnaka from making subsequent filings in that case.
Ruling on the case, the District Court entered an order denying Nnaka’s Motion for a Charging Lien (fee).
The court also specifically ruled that “Nnaka’s participation in this case must now come to an end.”
Bates said that Nnaka did not meet the basic prerequisites to be considered as a proper party in the case, and to be paid the amount he requested for, having not qualified to represent Nigeria.
The judge also ruled out Nnaka for the payment since he had not won any judgment for Nigeria.
Bates said in his ruling that, “Neither Nnaka nor his purported clients are parties to the forfeiture matter, and neither of them can win judgment through this litigation.
“The conclusion dooms Nnaka’s motion for charging lien. At common law, the charging of lien is applicable to a judgment or decree obtained for a client by an attorney. Until a judgment or decree has been obtained, the right to impose a lien does not arise.
“Even the most basic prerequisites for charging lien are missing here: Nnaka has not won a judgment for Nigeria; indeed, he had not successfully entered appearance on Nigeria’s behalf. A charging lien in the amount of $320 million is not called for. Nnaka’s claim against Nigeria must be pursued in another case: 16cv-1400.
“Unless and until Nnaka’s claim to the defendant’s assets are reinstated by the DC Circuit, Nnaka’s participation in this case must now come to an end,” the US judge ruled, paving the way for Nigeria to draw down its huge cash.
It will be recalled that Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, who was in the US for the judgment, had recently raised the alarm that Nnaka was merely trying to delay the return of the Abacha loot by the US, by making a frivolous claim that Nigeria must pay him 40 per cent of the Abacha loot.
Nnaka had also claimed that Malami was working against him after he had refused to relinquish “70 per cent” of his 40 per cent to the minister.
While responding to the allegation, Malami described Nnaka as a strange person to the case, who had not recovered a dime for Nigeria since he was allegedly given a mandate by the former Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Olujimi, to recover the Abacha loot in 2004.
Malami, in a 44-page document made available to newsmen earlier, described Nnaka as a man trying to reap from where he did not sow.
The minister said the Federal Government would not pay Nnaka the huge amount he is asking for since he is not qualified to practise law in the Maryland area where the case is taking place, and did not recover any money for the country 14 years after he was given a provisional letter to help locate and recover the Abacha loot.
The court had also held that since the temporary letter given to Nnaka by Olujimi was not revalidated by Mohammed Adoke when the forfeiture case resumed in 2013, the lawyer could, therefore, not claim to be representing Nigeria.
But Nnaka immediately rejected the court verdict and appealed against the ruling and threatened to sue Malami for saying that he was not qualified to represent Nigeria and was not entitled to 40 per cent of the Abacha loot.
The litany of cases filed by Nnaka and the appeal by the US Department of Justice, in conjunction with Nigeria, directly delayed the repatriation of the huge cash from the US to Nigeria.
Upon persistent inquiry, Malami told newsmen at the venue of the hearing in the US that he was hopeful that with the dismissal of the frivolous case by Nnaka, efforts would be intensified to bring back the Abacha loot.
“We trust that this Order denying Nnaka’s frivolous claim to the Abacha assets, will help to allay the fear of the Nigerian general public arising from an online medium’s article which stated that Nigeria stands to lose $320 million on account of Nnaka’s Motion.
“We also hope that this Order will help to correct the many falsehoods and half-truths published in the past against the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation regarding this matter.
“This is a positive development for Nigeria,” the AGF said.
Buhari Pays Tribute To Diya
President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday mourned the passing of retired Lt.-Gen. Oladipo Diya GCON, who served as Chief of General Staff from 1993 to 1997 and Vice Chairman of the Provisional Ruling Council in 1994.
The President, in a statement by his Spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina, in Abuja paid tribute to Diya’s bold and courageous career in the Nigeria military.
He particularly lauded him for his dedicated service to the country as General Officer Commanding, 82 Division, Commandant, National War College (1991–1993), Chief of Defence Staff and Military Governor of Ogun from January 1984 to August 1985.
Buhari recalled that the late Diya was known for his brilliance, exceptional organisational skills and discipline, and he displayed these virtues in the important roles he held in office as a military officer.
The president saluted the former Chief of General Staff for his love, belief and loyalty to the country he cherished so much and fought gallantly on the frontlines to defend her unity.
Buhari, who extended heartfelt condolences to Diya’s family, friends and colleagues, prayed that “Diya’s soul finds rest with his Creator, and may his contributions to the nation never be forgotten.”
Diya, who was born on April 3, 1944 in Odogbolu, Ogun State, died on Sunday in Lagos.
PDP Suspends Ayu For Anti-Party Activities
The ongoing crisis in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has deepened as the Executive Committee of the party in Igyorov Ward of Gboko Local Government Area of Benue State has suspended the National Chairman of the party, Dr Iyorchia Ayu, with immediate effect.
They suspended Ayu for anti-party activities after passing a vote-of-no confidence on him.
While reading a resolution, the Secretary of the party in Igyorov ward, Banger Dooyum, said Ayu’s anti-party activities, alongside his allies, contributed to PDP’s loss in his ward and local government in the governorship election.
Ayu was also accused of not paying his annual dues as enshrined by the party’s constitution.
Twelve out of the 17 exco members signed the documents endorsing his suspension.
They also alleged that the PDP chieftain did not vote during the governorship and state assembly elections held on March 18, 2023.
According to them, most of Ayu’s closest allies worked for the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) which resulted in the abysmal performance of the PDP in Igyorov Ward.
The ward chairman of Igyorov, Kashi Philip, also signed the letter alongside the exco.
I Didn’t Work Against Obi, Wike Fires Back …Describes Obi’s Allegation As Unfortunate
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has taken strong exception to Labour Party presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi’s allegations that he denied him of victory in the state in the February 25 presidential election.
Wike clarified that there was never a time that the G-5 governors or the Integrity Group endorsed Obi or another candidate as their preferred candidate for the presidential election.
Speaking during a media chat last Wednesday in his home town, Rumuepirikom, the governor described Obi’s accusation that he manipulated the electoral process to his disadvantage as unfortunate.
“I don’t work for INEC, I don’t have INEC documents with me. I am not an ad hoc staff of INEC and so I am not in a place to rig election for anybody. It is when you have the materials of INEC that you talk about rigging. But I take exception to Peter Obi’s comments that I came out against him. People are not being sincere, people are not appreciative.”
The Rivers State governor, maintained that his primary preoccupation as far as the 2023 presidential election was concerned was for a southern Nigerian to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari, whose tenure ends on May 29, 2023.
“I never told Rivers people to vote for the candidate (of the APC). I told Rivers people (to vote) for the unity of Nigeria. As far as Rivers State is concerned, their position is that ‘look, we want a power shift.’ And there are two candidates from the South – Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Peter Obi.
“If Rivers people have chosen to vote for Asiwaju, and the same Rivers people also voted for Peter Obi, that tells you that their decision was to vote for a Southern President. So, amongst them one must always get the highest vote. If you look at the votes, APC won, followed by the Labour Party. So that tells you what the decision they took. That is the decision of Rivers people”, the governor stated.
Wike said he was among those who recommended Obi to be PDP candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s running mate in 2019.
“In 2019, ask Peter Obi, I was one of the team that chose Obi to be the Vice Presidential candidate of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. When we met at Abubakar’s house, he said these are the names, I will choose Obi. Obi was invited while we were at Saraki’s house in the night.
“I was fought by people like (Senator Ike) Ekweremadu; my own friend, the governor of Ebonyi State, (David) Umahi, and Pius Anyim. Every blame was on me, why will I be the one that will say Peter Obi? Why should I chose for the South-East? Did he come out to say Wike was the one who supported me to be the vice presidential candidate? He didn’t say so.”
He declared that the G-5 governors and the Integrity Group never during any of their meetings unanimously endorsed Obi or any presidential candidate of southern Nigeria extraction.
He said, “There was never a time the integrity Group met and say it must be this person. We only agreed on southern President. We formulated strategies and the southern President emerged. Our interest is that a southern President should emerge.
“When we went to our meeting, we decided on southern President. We didn’t say it must be this. We said whatever you are doing it must be southern President. The aim of G5 was equity, fairness and justice”.
The governor also said the G-5 governor and members of the Integrity Group cannot be accused of betraying the PDP.
He stressed that those who blatantly refused to implement the provisions of the party’s constitution on rotation of elective and appointive offices are to blame the party’s electoral misfortune.
He said all the G-5 governors consisting of Seyi Makinde of Oyo State; Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu State; Samuel Ortom of Benue; and Victor Ikpeazu of Abia; made tremendous sacrifice to ensure the emergence of a southern president.
The governor particularly expressed delight that the Governor of Oyo State, Seyi Makinde, who had earlier said he would not mind sacrificing his second term on the altar of equity, justice, and fairness, was re-elected.
“Ortom said even if he loses his senatorial election, let equity, justice, and fairness prevail. He may not gain it now. But history will be kind to him. The same applies to Ugwuanyi and Ikpeazu. Even Makinde said even if he lost his governorship ambition, he was interested in the unity of Nigeria”, Wike recalled.
He boasted that in Rivers State, PDP won the governorship, three senatorial seats, 10 federal and 31 state constituencies in the general election.
He said, ironically, the PDP National Chairman, Dr. Iyorchia Ayu, who once derided that the G-5 governors are small boys failed to win his ward, local government and state for the presidential candidate in the February 25 election.
According to him, PDP also lost woefully in Niger, Jigawa, Imo, Sokoto, Yobe and other states.
“Ayu lost his polling unit. I won three senatorial seats, and 31 House of Assembly seats. He didn’t get anything. Lamido did not win the presidential election in Jigawa. Babangida Aliyu did not win. So, who is the betrayer? We won to make sure PDP exists. Of what relevance is he as national chairman? He couldn’t deliver his polling unit”, the governor stated.
Wike dismissed insinuation that he would manipulate the Rivers State governor-elect, Siminialayi Fubara, after leaving office.
The governor also clarified that Fubara, who resigned as Accountant General of the state to contest the 2023 governorship election, is not wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)
According to him, some disgruntled politicians in the state were behind the rumour.
Wike stated that Fubara on assumption of office will continue from where his administration stopped and would consolidate on the NEW Rivers Vision.
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