A United States’ District Court, yesterday, dismissed a case filed by a Nigerian lawyer, Godson Nnaka, where he asked that repatriation of over $550 million stolen funds during the regime of late General Sani Abacha ( popularly known as Abacha loot) to Nigeria be stopped until the payment of his legal fees worth $320 million is made by the Nigerian Government.
The dismissal of the case by Justice John D. Bates of the U.S District Court may has now made it possible for the return of the loot at a time the country needs it the most due to economic challenges.
The US-based Nigerian lawyer, Godson Nnaka said he was entitled to 40 percent of the $550m Abacha loot the US government was about to return to Nigeria. He said it was his legal fee.
Nigeria filled an opposition to Nnaka’s motion for the payment of the lien and also aked the court to bar Nnaka from makin subsequent fillings in the case.
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.
The judge 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.