The government said that it adhered to “international best practices” in dropping the charges against Mr. Abacha.
The Federal Government has said it dropped corruption charges against Mohammed Abacha, the son of late Nigeria dictator, Sani Abacha, in the “best interest of the country.”
It also said that it adhered to “international best practices” in dropping the charges against Mr. Abacha.
In a statement reacting to the criticism of the deal reached with the Abacha family by global anti-corruption organisation, Transparency international, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, said the government dropped the charges to facilitate the repatriation of the country’s fund held by the Abachas and their associates in Europe and America.
Rather than criticism, Mr. Adoke said, the Jonathan administration deserves praise for what he described as its “effective strategies” of putting pressure on the Abacha family and its associates through sustained criminal proceedings in various jurisdictions to facilitate the return of the stolen funds.
He said this strategy has led to “significant increase, both in the quantum and rate of recoveries.”
The government had accused Mohammed of receiving stolen property worth N100.38 billion. The money is believed to have been stolen by the late dictator when he was the Nigerian head of state from 1993 to 1998.
The Federal Government’s lawyer, Daniel Enwelum, however, made an oral application asking the court to withdraw the criminal charges against the suspect. He also applied to discontinue the case.
Transparency International condemned the dropping of the charges against Mohammed Abacha, saying the Federal Government is encouraging impunity in the polity by its action.
“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,” read a statement signed by TI Regional Director for sub-Saharan Africa, Chantal Uwimana.
However, Mr. Adoke said the criminal proceeding originally instituted against the Abachas has forced them to discontinue contesting cases filed in Liechtenstein, Luxemburg, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
He said the Federal Government has succeeded in repatriating a sizeable amount from this jurisdiction as a result of that:
“The aforementioned steps have led to the recovery of 226.3 million US Dollars from Liechtenstein in addition to the 7.5 Million Euros that was recovered from an associated company of the Abachas’ in Liechtenstein in 2011. It will also be recalled that in 2011, the Federal Government was able to recover and repatriate through negotiated settlement with the Jersey, the sum of 22.5 million pounds confiscated from an associate of the Abacha family by the Island of Jersey.”
Mr. Adoke projected that by dropping the charges against the Mohammed Abacha, the Federal Government will recover “the sum of $380 Million US Dollars from the Luxembourg proceedings and $550 Million US Dollars from forfeiture proceedings instituted by the US Department of Justice.”
He said it is false for TI to state that “the Abachas have been allowed to get away with little loss”; as the aim of “prosecution of corruption cases is the deprivation of the criminal offender of the proceeds of crime. This is achieved by the taking away of such proceeds of crime by the State (regurgitation and restitution). This principal objective has been achieved to a very significant degree in the Abacha proceedings.”
Mr. Adoke said while he understands the yearning of people who are calling for the custodial sentencing of Mohammed Abacha, they should also realise that the case has been on for 16 years with little or no progress made in that regard.
He further added that the case against the Abachas is not as straightforward as many assume. He said the norm of criminal prosecutions, which requires “proof beyond reasonable doubt” poses great difficulty for the prosecution as any shadow of doubt is resolved in favour of the accused person.”
He said the government consulted widely with international experts and partners that included development agencies and its decision to discontinue the criminal proceeding was informed by the feedback it received. He said the government acted in the best interest of the country judging from the constraint posed by the case.
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