MOHAMMED ABACHA VS. FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

AREAS OF LAW: CONSTITUTIONAL LAW-IMMUNITY, COURT- JURISDICTION, INTERPRETATION OF STATUTES

 SUMMARY OF FACT:

The Respondent through the Attorney General of the Federation  instituted  an action at the High court  of the Federal  Capital  Territory, Abuja against the Appellant and one other for charges relating to offence of conspiracy, receiving stolen property dishonestly and concealing stolen money, all pursuant to Sections 97(i), 317 and 319 of the Penal Code. At the trial Court, the Appellant and the other filed several applications before their plea could be taken. One of which bordered on the jurisdiction of the trial Court to entertain the action. The application was dismissed and the trial court affirmed that it had jurisdiction to entertain same.  The Appellant also brought a motion of notice praying for the suspension of consideration of the application and delivery of its ruling thereof by the trial Court and to refer to the Court of Appeal three questions of law which were objected to by the Respondent. The application was granted by the trial court referring the questions to the lower court. The court answered the questions referred to it in the negative against the Appellant. Being dissatisfied the Appellant has brought this appeal before this court.

HELD

Appeal dismissed

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION

Whether the Court of Appeal was right when it held that the Forfeiture of Assets etc. (Certain Persons) Decree No. 53 of 1999 did not absolve the appellant Mohammed Abacha and all other persons mentioned in the schedule to the said law from further prosecution in the face of the clearer wordings of the said legislation and the previous interpretation given in identical circumstances to the said law by the State? (Grounds 1, 2 and 3).

Whether the court below can be said to be correct when it rejected the appellant’s submission that the totality of the effect of Decree No. 53 of 1999 amounted to Executive or State promise not to prosecute any of the persons listed in the schedule to the said decree (Appellant inclusive) and that Government was thereby stopped from prosecuting in respect of any issue arising from compliance with the law in issue? (Grounds 4 and 5).

 Whether the court below was right when it held that the office of the late Head of State – General Sani Abacha (deceased) the nature of his government, the privileges and immunity enjoyed by him did not have any bearing on the charges filed by the state against the appellant in this matter to the extent that they are made up of facts and allegations that PRIMA FACIE do not constitute any of the offences alleged? (Grounds 6, 7, 8 and 9)

RATIOS

“DEAL WITH”- MEANING OF THE PHRASE “DEAL WITH”

“The phrase – “deal with” means “to take action on, to be about or concern with” PER ARIWOOLA, J.S.C.

”FORFEITURE”- MEANING OF THE WORD “FORFEITURE”

”The word “forfeiture” means – “the divestiture of property without compensation. The loss of a right, privilege, or property because of a crime, breach of obligation, or neglect of duty”. It follows that, “title in those assets and properties forfeited is instantaneously transferred to another, such as the government”. PER ARIWOOLA, J.S.C.

”INDEMNIFY”- MEANING OF THE WORD ‘INDEMNIFY’

”To indemnify is to reimburse another for a loss suffered because of a third party’s or one’s own act or default. Or to promise to reimburse another for such a loss.” PER ARIWOOLA, J.S.C

AGGRIEVED PERSON-WHO IS AN AGGRIEVED PERSON

”To be aggrieved, a person must have legal rights that are adversely affected, having been harmed by an infringement of legal rights. A person aggrieved must be a person who has suffered a legal grievance, a person against whom a decision has been pronounced which has wrongfully deprived him of something or wrongfully refused him something or wrongfully affected his title to something ” PER ARIWOOLA, J.S.C

IMMUNITY-WHETHER THE IMMUNITY GRANTED THE PRESIDENT, VICE PRESIDENT, GOVERNOR AND DEPUTY   GOVERNOR BY SECTION 308 OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION IS FOR LIFE

”It is true that the Constitution confers absolute immunity on the President, Vice President, Governor and Deputy Governor in respect of civil or criminal matters during their tenure in office. See; Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution.   Indeed, the provision clearly suspends the right of action or the right to judicial relief of an aggrieved party during the tenure of office of the officials mentioned therein. The immunity does not extend beyond the tenure in office, after which the official shall be liable to face trial. ” PER ARIWOOLA, J.S.C

IMMUNITY-THE PURPOSE OF IMMUNITY AS GUARANTEED BY SECTION 308 OF THE 1999 CONSTITUTION

”The purpose of the immunity is to allow the incumbent President or Head of State, or Vice President, Governor or Deputy Governor, a completely free hand and mind to perform his or her duties and responsibilities while in office; to protect the incumbent from harassment. The immunity, however, does not extend or cover the period immediately after leaving office neither does it extend to include his family members during and after the period of his incumbency.” PER ONNOGHEN, J.S.C

JURISDICTION- WHAT JURISDICTION ENTAILS

”Jurisdiction in contrast to judicial power is the authority or legal weapon which a Court must possess to decide matters that are litigated before it or take cognizance of matters presented in a formal way for its decision. ” PER ONNOGHEN, J.S.C

JURISDICTION- THE NATURE OF JURISDICTION

”Jurisdiction may be limited as to the kind and nature of actions which a particular court may entertain or as to the area over which its judicial powers extend, or both.  PER KEKERE-EKUN, J.S.C

RULE OF INTERPRETATION OF STATUTE-DUTY OF COURT TO INTERPRET THE PROVISIONS OF STATUTE CLEARLY BY GIVING THE PLAIN WORDINGS THEIR ORDINARY INTERPRETATION

”In the interpretation of Statutes, the cardinal rule is that where the provisions of a Statute is clear and unambiguous, the duty of the court is to simply interpret the clear provision by giving the plain wordings their ordinary interpretation without more. It is not the function of a court of law to bend backwards to sympathise with a party in a case in the interpretation of a statute merely for the reason, that the language of the law seems harsh or is likely to cause, hardship. PER ARIWOOLA, J.S.C.

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NICHOLAS CHUKWUJEKWU UKACHUKWU VS PEOPLES DEMOCRATIC PARTY & 3 ORS

SUBJECT MATTER

APPEAL, ELECTION, COURT

ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS-WHAT AMOUNTS TO

ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS-CONCEPT OF

ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS-DUTY ON COURTS THERETO

“To institute an action during the pendency of another one claiming the same reliefs amounts to an abuse of court process and it does not matter whether the matter is an appeal or not, as long as the previous action has not been finally disposed of. It is the subsequent action that is in abuse of the process of the court”. PER WALTER SAMUEL NKANU ONNOGHEN, JSC

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ALHAJI LASISI SALISU & ANOR VS ALHAJI ABBAS MOBOLAJI & 2 ORS

SUBJECT MATTER

 APPEAL, JURISDICTION, COURT

RAISING FRESH OR NEW ISSUES ON APPEAL-WHETHER PERMITTED BY COURTS-WHEN A COURT CAN ALLOW SAME

FRESH ISSUE ON APPEAL-WHEN A COURT CAN ALLOW SAME-DUTY OF AN APPELLANT THERETO

REPLY BRIEF-WHEN NECESSARY TO FILE AND SERVE SAME

AMENDMENT-WHETHER THERE ARE LIMITS ON THE NUMBER OF TIMES THE COURT CAN ALLOW AMENDMENT OF COURT PROCESSES

AMENDMENT-CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE A COURT CAN EXERCISE ITS DISCRETION IN RESPECT OF AN APPLICATION FOR AMENDMENT

FRESH ISSUE ON APPEAL-CONDITIONS WHERE AN APPELLATE COURT CAN ENTERTAIN SAME

JURISDICTION-IMPORTANT OF

“In other words, as long as an amendment being sought is not fraudulent, vexatious, or meant to overreach or merely annoy or embarrass the other party, the court will always be inclined, in the best interest of justice and fairness to exercise its discretion in favour of the application to amend process already filed”.   PER OLUKAYODE ARIWOOLA, JSC

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SOUTH ATLANTIC PETROLEUM LTD VS THE MINISTER OF PETROLEUM RESOURCES

SUBJECT MATTER

APPEALS, COURT

APPEALS-DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FILING AN INITIAL APPEAL AND AN AMENDED APPEAL- EFFECT OF NON-COMPLIANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THE CONSTITUTION/ACT AND RULES OF COURT

RULES OF COURT-COURTS ARE BOUND BY THEIR RULES

APPEALS-APPEAL FROM DECISIONS OF THE COURT OF APPEAL ON GROUNDS OF FAIR HEARING-WHETHER REQUIRES LEAVE OF COURT

“I remain of the firm and considered view that courts, are bound by their rules and acquit themselves only by conducting proceedings in the manner their rules stipulate they should”. PER MUSA DATTIJO MUHAMMAD, JSC

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KAYODE BABARINDE & 2 ORS VS THE STATE

SUBJECT MATTER

 CRIMINAL LAW AND PROCEDURE, LAW OF EVIDENCE, COURT

TRIAL WITHIN TRIAL-PURPORT OF

CONSPIRACY-MEANING OF-HOW PROVED

CRIMINAL CONSPIRACY-NATURE OF PROOF REQUIRED

IDENTIFICATION PARADE-WHEN NOT NECESSARY

EVIDENCE OF A SINGLE WITNESS-WHEN SUFFICIENT TO GROUND A CONVICTION

CONCURRENT FINDINGS OF FACTS BY LOWER COURTS-ATTITUDE OF APPELLATE COURT-WHEN CAN INTERFERE THEREWITH

ARMED ROBBERY-WHAT THE PROSECUTION MUST PROVE TO SECURE A CONVICTION

WITNESSES-WHETHER A PARTY IS BOUND TO CALL EVERY AVAILABLE WITNESS

CONTRADICTIONS-NATURE OF CONTRADICTION THAT WILL BE FATAL TO THE PROSECUTIONS CASE”. PER KUDIRAT MOTONMORI OLATOKUNBO KEKERE-EKUN JSC

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CAPTAIN O. ABIDOYE VS THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA

CRIMINAL LAW, EVIDENCE LAW, COURT

INGREDIENT OF AN OFFENCE-DUTY OF PROSECUTION THERETO CHARGE-AMENDMENT OF-DUTY OF COURT THERETO

ELEMENT OF AN OFFENCE-EFFECT OF INCLUSION OF ELEMENTS INTO PARTICULARS NOT REQUIRED BY LAW CREATING THE OFFENCE

ACCUSED PERSON-WHETHER COMPELLED TO GIVE EVIDENCE AT HIS TRIAL

CHARGE-EFFECT OF MISTAKE IN PARTICULARS OF OFFENCE-NATURE OF ELEMENTS/INGREDIENTS WHICH CONSTITUTES THE OFFENCE CHARGED

DUTY OF COURT -IN CONSIDERING WHETHER A CASE HAS BEEN PROVED

CRIMINAL OFFENCE-WHEN AN ACT OR OMISSION CONSTITUTES AN OFFENCE

WRITTEN LAW- MEANING OF

 “In deciding whether or not the prosecution proved its case, the Court has to consider the totality of the evidence adduced for and against the accused person”. PER NGWUTA, JSC

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CHIEF ALEX OLUSOLA OKE & ANOR VS DR. RAHMAN OLUSEGUN MIMIKO & 4 ORS

SUBJECT MATTER

ACTION, COURT

MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE-WHAT AMOUNTS TO

FINDING OF FACTS-WHEN AN APPELLATE COURT WILL INTERFERE THEREWITH

“When in the course of a proceeding the goal post is shifted to the detriment of one of the parties or where it can be said that from what had transpired from the very beginning of the judicial process or at any point during the exercise of the judicial proceedings that the scale of justice had been tilted to favour one party thus jeopardising the equal right of the other party then a miscarriage has occurred”. PER MARY UKAEGO PETER-ODILI, JSC

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AKEREDOLU & ORS V. MIMIKO & ORS

SUBJECT MATTER

APPEAL, COURT, LAW OF EVIDENCE, ELECTION PETITION

ISSUES FOR DETERMINATION-FORMULATION OF-PURPOSE OF

INCOMPETENT GROUND OF APPEAL-EFFECT OF

ELECTORAL ACT 2010- PURPORT OF SECTION 139

JURISDICTION OF COURT-BASIS FOR DETERMINATION OF

EXPERT EVIDENCE-WHETHER THE COURT IS BOUND TO ACCEPT SAME

“It is basic that for a petition to succeed on non-compliance with the provision of the Electoral Act, the petitioner must prove not only that there was non-compliance with the provisions of the Act, but also that the non-compliance substantially affected the result of the election”. PER J.A. FABIYI JSC

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ACTION CONGRESS OF NIGERIA v. SULE LAMIDO & 4 ORS

SUBJECT MATTER:

FAIR- HEARING – TEST OF-

 EVIDENCE – EVALUATION OF PROBATIVE VALUE.

PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE- PURPOSE OF FRONT LOADING.

COURT – DUTY OF A JUDGE.

APPEAL – ATTITUDE OF THE SUPREME COURT TO CONCURRENT FINDINGS OF THE LOWER COURTS.

It has long been settled that the test whether a party in a case was given a fair hearing is the impression of a reasonable   person who was present at the trial or who was aware of the proceedings.” BODE RHODES- VIVOUR, JSC

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HON. BIMBO ADEPOJU & 9 ORS V. OLONA YINKA &12 ORS V OYSIEC & 2 ORS.

SUBJECT MATTER

ELECTION PETITION

COURTS – DUTY OF COURTS TO JEALOUSLY GUARD THEIR JURISDICTION.

The principle re-emphasised in these cases is that the court must at all times jealously guard its jurisdiction to hear a case to its conclusion and determine, on the merits, the rights and obligations of the contending parties by either granting or refusing the reliefs claimed; that it should avoid the temptation of terminating a case at the instance of a defendant on the allegation that by reason of some intervening circumstances during the prudency of the case, the court no longer has jurisdiction-and this is particularly so where the rights and obligations sought to be enforced are still availableF.F Tabai, JSC.

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