The Supreme Court on Friday ordered that the name of Late Brig.-Gen. James Abdullahi be replaced with his wife, Elizabeth in an appeal the deceased earlier brought against the Nigerian Army.
The other respondents are listed as Chief of Army Staff, Chief of Defense Staff and the Minister of Defense.
Justice Kumai Akaas, reading the ruling written by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun held that the decision was novel as it was guided by other considerations.
According to him, an action summarily would come to an end when an applicant in the matter dies, but that the prevailing circumstance around the case warranted this intervention.
Akaas said the unanimous decision stemmed from the simple reasoning that all objections raised in the notice of appeal by the original applicant should still be considered on their merit.
He said there was merit in the application by the deceased’s widow to be substituted as the new appellant.
Elizabeth brought the application fundamentally under the powers conferred upon the court by Section 6 (6) (a) of the 1999 Constitution.
She filed the application on April 27, 2015 following the death of the appellant (husband) on Oct.22, 2014.
Elizabeth had prayed for an order substituting Abdullahi’s name for the purpose of continuing the prosecution of the ground nine only in the original notice of appeal.
The ground nine of the appeal was the order of forfeiture of the deceased appellant’s property covered by Certificate of Occupancy No. FCT/ABU/BN.897 in the name of Lt.-Col James Omebije Abdullahi.
According to the applicant’s deposition, the property is situated at Plot 741 Cadestral Zone B2 Durimi District of Abuja.
She also prayed for an order granting her the leave to amend the notice of appeal filed by her late husband on May 22, 2009.
She said there was obvious challenge to the judgment of the court of appeal affirming the deceased applicant conviction.
According to her, the deceased’s original appeal had challenged the propriety of the order made by the court touching on his property covered by Certificate of Occupancy.
Abdullahi was convicted to 10 years by General Court Martial on Sept. 30, 2005 for offences of stealing various sums of money totaling N33.5 million being property of the Nigerian Armed Forces.
The court also convicted him for a conduct prejudicial to good service and discipline.
The judgment which purportedly affirmed the decision of the General Court Martial as confirmed by the Army Council directed the forfeiture of the deceased landed property by way of restitution.
Meanwhile, the General Court Martial as confirmed by the Army Council had directed the deceased to refund N33.5 million within 90 days or the property be confiscated to recover the amount.
The appellant had argued that the property which the respondents purportedly confiscated to recover the said amount only was valued since Jan. 20, 2005 at N83.1 million.
The appellant had argued that the General Court Martial might have order the forfeiture of the property but that the decision of the confirming authority was for the properly to be confiscated to recover N33.5million.
The appeal had claimed that there was a pitfall in the decision of the appeal court which violated Section 148 of the Armed Forces Act.
The notice of the appeal claimed that the Armed Forces Act had arrogated an overriding authority to Army Council over the decision of the General Court Martial which the court of appeal had jettisoned.
Elizabeth, therefore, averred that the error noticed in the judgment had adversely affected her and the five Children the marriage with Abdullahi was blessed with.
She said the decision of the Army Council was for a momentary takeover of the property to recover the said amount after which it should be returned to the appellant.
Elizabeth also submitted that the value of the property as at 2005 captured by deceased’s notice of appeal was much higher than the money the Army authority accused him to had misappropriated.
No date has been fixed for the hearing of the appeal.
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