The Political Economist
Transparency International, the global anti-corruption movement, has condemned the action taken by the government of Nigeria to drop corruption charges against Mohammed Abacha, son of the late president of Nigeria, General Sani Abacha and called for the immediate reinstatement of the charges.
The government had accused Mohammed Abacha of receiving stolen property worth millions of dollars. The money is believed to have been stolen by his father when he was President. The Nigerian government had filed a nine-count charge against Mohammed.
“Allowing the theft of public funds to go unpunished sends the wrong message that those with powerful connections can act with impunity. The case should have been fully prosecuted and the government has not given adequate reasons for dropping the charges,” said Chantal Uwimana, Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa at Transparency International.
In his lifetime Gen. Abacha was investigated for corruption and human rights violations. Recently the United States government froze US$458 million in assets it claims he and co-conspirators stole from Nigeria. In separate legal proceedings, Liechtenstein agreed on June 18 to return US$224 million held by companies linked to Gen. Abacha.
Corruption is widespread in Nigeria and despite claims by the government to make tackling corruption a priority too few people have been held to account for a series of high profile scandals. At the same time about half of Nigerians live in poverty.
Recently, the Federal Government has withdrew charges on the alleged N100.38Billion stolen property case against the scion of the late former Head of State, Muhammed Abacha.
Sources connected to the case told our correspondent in a telephone chat from Abuja that no reason was given by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) for the withdrawal of the charges and discontinuance of the case.
Mohammed was to be arraigned at an Abuja High Court on charges of receiving stolen property worth N100.38 billion. The arraignment of Mohammed Abacha by the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, AGF, had suffered various set-backs. It would be recalled that penultimate Tuesday, Abacha case could not be heard due to alleged ill-health of the suspect.
Mr. Abacha was to be arraigned before Justice Mamman Kolo of an Abuja High Court on charges of receiving stolen property worth N100.38 billion.
The property was said to be owned by his late father, Sani Abacha, who allegedly stole it from the federal government. The property was later forfeited to the Federal Government after the death of Sani Abacha, who was Nigeria’s military dictator from 1993 to 1998.
The office of the AGF, on behalf of the Federal Government, filed a nine-count charge against Mr. Abacha, who is yet to appear in court to take his plea since the case was filed.
The AGF alleged that Mr. Abacha received property worth N100.38 billion between 1995 and 1998, which was acquired unlawfully by the father and later forfeited to the government.
At the resumed hearing of the case, counsel to Mr. Abacha, Reuben Atabo, told the court that he had received hearing notice for arraignment of the suspect.
Mr. Atabo argued that the suspect was ready to clear his name from the allegations.
He, however, said that it was unfortunate that the suspect fell sick which resulted in his inability to appear in court.
“My lord, we wish to inform the court that about four days ago the suspect took ill and he was rushed to a hospital.
“My lord, my client’s absence today is neither deliberate nor an attempt to run away from his trial.
“He was diagnosed to have high blood pressure and severe chest pain. Doctors prescribed some drugs for him and recommended two weeks bed rest,” he said.
Mr. Atabo submitted a medical report in support of his oral application for adjournment.
He urged the court to fix a favourable date to enable his client recuperate and attend his trial.
Counsel to the Federal Government, Daniel Enwelum, said that, he would reluctantly concede to the oral application for adjournment since it was a medical issue.