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Sunday, 18 September 2016

US to return Abacha loot, dismisses case filed by Nnaka

The US is set to repatriate over $550 million of stolen funds during the regime of late General Sani Abacha after a case instigated by a Nigerian lawyer was dismissed. Vanguard reports that a US-based Nigerian lawyer, Godson Nnaka, had requested for $320 million from the Abacha loot from Nigeria. Justice John D. Bates of the U.S District Court had dismissed Nnaka’s claim and insisted that he was not a party to the forfeiture case filed by the US Department of Justice in conjunction with Nigeria. The office of the Attorney General of the Federation had filed an opposition to Nnaka’s motion for the payment and asked the court to bar him from filling similar cases.

“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 U.S judge ruled, paving the way for Nigeria to draw down its huge cash. Abubakar Malami who is the minister of justice was in the US for the judgement said Nnaka was merely trying to delay the return of the Abacha loot by the U.S by making a claim that Nigeria must pay him 40 percent of the loot. The minister noted that although Nnaka was recruited by Mr. Olujimi, the former attorney general in 2004, he had not recovered anything. He said Nigeria will not pay Nnaka the $320 million he is asking for since he is not qualified to practise law in the Maryland area where the case is taking place.

The court also ruled that the lawyer could not claim to be representing Nigeria as the temporary letter given to him by Olujimi was not revalidated by Mohammed Adoke during the Goodluck Jonathan administration when the forfeiture case resumed in 2013. Malami said that the case filed by Nnaka had delayed the return of the Abacha loot but the recent judgement dismissing the case should make things move faster. “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.”