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Abacha Loot: US Court Dismisses Suit Stopping Repatriation Of $550 million

A United States’ District Court, Saturday, dismissed a case filed by a Nigerian lawyer, Godson Nnaka, where he asked that the repatriation of over $550 million stolen funds during the regime of late General Sani Abacha to Nigeria be stopped until the payment of his legal fees worth $320 million is made by the Nigerian Government.

Saturday’s judgment passed by Justice John D. Bates of the U.S District Court may have now cleared the air on the return of the loot as it will now be returned to the country to support the country’s ailing economy. The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, had earlier dismissed the claim by the US-based Nigerian lawyer, who said he was entitled to 40 percent of the $550m Abacha loot the US government was about to return to Nigeria.

In a 44-page document, Malami said the Nigerian government will not pay the amount Nnaka asked for because he was not qualified to practise law in the Maryland area where the case is taking place. Justice John D. Bates, while dismissing Nnaka’s case, ruled that the claimant was not entitled to such payment since he was not in the first place, part of the forfeiture case filed by the US Department of Justice alongside the Nigerian government. The District Court consequently entered an order denying Nnaka’s Motion for a Charging Lien (fee). The Court in a specific ruling, held that Nnaka’s participation in the case should henceforth come to an end.

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Justice Bates further ruled that Nnaka did not meet the basic conditions to be seen as a party in the case and to be paid the amount he requested for, considering that he was not qualified to represent Nigeria. He also ruled that since Nnaka had never won a case for Nigeria, such demand was unnecessary.  The justice ruled, “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 judge ruled.

About Editor

Otunba Sayo Akintola is a 1992 graduate of Linguistics from the University of Ibadan, Oyo State. He holds a post-graduate diploma in Financial Management and MBA from Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi. He started his 12-year sojourn in journalism at the Nigerian Tribune in 1993 as Business and Economy reporter. He rose through the ranks to become the Group Business Editor of the nation’s oldest surviving private national newspaper, the Nigerian Tribune. He set up World Street Journal magazine in 2018.

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