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Sani Abacha family defeat El-Rufai, others in Court over N15 billion suit on Durba Hotel

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Late Military Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha
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The Abacha family, acting through its head, Alhaji Mohammed Sani Abacha has defeated Kaduna State governor, Malami Nasir El-Rufai and others in Court sitting in Kaduna.

The family sued the governor, State Attorney General and Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Authority (KASUPDA) for trespassing on their expanse of land housing Durba Hotel in Kaduna.

But, the governor and three others [defendants] lost the bid to stop the hearing of a N15 billion suit filed against them.

The plaintiff are the family of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, accusing El-Rufai of unlawful demolition of the hotel and the plan to sell it, having purportedly revoked the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O).

Sued with El-Rufai are: The Attorney General, Kaduna State; Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Authority (KASUPDA) and Kaduna State Geographic Information Service (KADGIS).

After arguments by Abacha family’s lawyer, Reuben Atabo (SAN) insisting that the suit was competent and well presented and raised cause of action against Kaduna State governor and three others for they were expected to enter defence.

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The plaintiff’s lawyer’s response was at the backdrop of Defendant lawyer’s submission, querying the competence of the suit and the Court’s jurisdiction to heat it.

In her ruling, Justice Hanatu Balogun of the High Court of Kaduna State dismissed the notice of defendants for lack of merit

In a copy of ruling made available to journalists, the judge held that the defendants’ claim that the third and fourth defendants (KASUPDA and KADGIS) were not served pre-action notice, as required by law, the plaintiff served them pre-action notices, dated January 17 and February 17, 2020.

“In my view, the plaintiff has complied with the provisions of both the Kaduna State Urban and Regional Planning Law, Number 31 of 2018 and KADGIS Law, Number 15 of 2018. In the present case, I find that the third and fourth defendants were notified of the plaintiff’s intention to sue,” the judge said.

On the defendants’ claim that the suit was invalid because KASUPDA was wrongly described as an “agency” as against its actual name of “authority,” the judge said such error was a misnomer since nobody was misled by the error in the name.

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“On the use of the wrong name – that is, Kaduna State Planning and Development Agency (KASUPDA) instead of Kaduna State Planning and Development Authority (KASUPDA), this is clearly a misnomer as both sides are very clear that the reference was to the third defendant and no other.

“It was not a wrong party sued as in the Njoku vs. UAC Foods case, but simply a wrong name of a correct defendant. This is curable by an order of correction of the name,” Justice Balogun added.

The judge also held that, as against the defendants’ argument that no cause of action was established, the plaintiff raised substantial cause of action against El-Rufai and the others.

She found that not only is El-Rufai, as the governor vested with the power to administer all the state’s land on behalf of the people, he “is the person said to have issued or directed the issuance of the contested revocation orders over the plaintiff’s right of occupancy”.

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Justice Balogun held that the state’s Attorney General was also a necessary party in the case because, being the Chief Law Officer, he is to guide the state and other defendants in the suit, particularly when the plaintiff was claiming damages.

“I, therefore, find and hold that both the first and second defendants (El-Rufai and the AG) are necessary parties in this suit, and the plaintiff has, in his statement of claim and reliefs sought, shown that he has a complaint against the defendants.

“I, therefore, find and hold that there is a cause of action against the first and second defendants. On the whole, I find all issues raised by the defendants against them and in favour of the plaintiff,” the judge said.

The case was adjourned till February 10, 2022 the hearing in the substantive suit.

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