Despite efforts to accelerate conclusion of corruption cases in Nigeria, many high-profile litigations still linger in courts for many years, over what lawyers blame on “shenanigans” of parties.
After the fanfare that greeted their commencement, cases such as those of a former National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki (retd); former governors of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim; Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako and Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, have lingered for six years, while several others have been in various courts for at least two years.
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Some major cases still dragging in courts include the following:
The prosecution of a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (retd) by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) over an alleged diversion of N21billion has dragged since 2016.
The anti-graft agency had moved to recover property linked to the former air chief after he initially offered to enter a plea bargain with the government.
The EFCC had obtained a final forfeiture of sums worth N2.5 billion, found in his bank accounts from a Federal High Court in Lagos, which was upheld by a Court of Appeal, also in Lagos, after it held that the defendant could not prove that the funds were not proceeds of an unlawful act, but the main trial continues in court.
Amosun is being tried alongside Jacob Adigun and Gbadebo Owodunni on amended 13 counts of fraud, involving the diversion of N21bn belonging to the Nigeria Air Force (NAF).
The trial of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, has suffered several setbacks since its commencement in February, 2019.
The case is expected to resume on October 5 and 6, 2021.
Lawal is facing a N544 million grass-cutting contract awarded to a company linked to him, Rholavision Engineering Ltd and Josmon Technologies Ltd, by the Presidential Initiative for the North-East (PINE).
He was arraigned on a 10-count charge before an FCT High Court over the deal, alongside his younger brother, Hamidu Lawal, Suleiman Abubakar, Apeh Monday and the two companies.
Apart from procedural delays in the course of the trial, the case suffered a major setback following the death of the former presiding judge in the matter, Justice Jude Okeke in August, 2020.
The case was re-assigned to Justice Charles Agbaza, where they were re-arraigned on November 30, 2020 for the matter to resume.
A former NSA, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (retd) was charged with misappropriation of $2.1bn arms purchase funds in 2015.
He regained freedom on the eve of Christmas of 2019 after national outcry on disobedience of several court orders, including the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice, for his bail.
One of the cases before an FCT High Court was filed by the EFCC over an alleged misappropriation of N19.4bn arms funds by Dasuki.
He is standing trial alongside a former Minister of State for Finance, Bashir Yuguda, former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, his son, Sagir and their firm, Dalhatu Investment Limited.
The case was adjourned to September 21 and 22.
There is also the case before a Federal High Court in Abuja on illegal possession of arms and money laundering.
The charges against a former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Alison-Madueke, have deadlocked after repeated efforts to extradite her from the United Kingdom failed.
Madueke is being charged with 13 counts of money laundering by the EFCC since November, 2018, before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
She was alleged to have unlawfully diverted $39.7m and N3.32bn during her tenure as minister between 2010 and 2015.
The EFCC chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, had on May 12, announced that the anti-graft agency had recovered 80 properties and the sum of $80m from Madueke.
A Federal High Court in Lagos had in 2019 granted final forfeiture of jewellery said to worth N14bn recovered from Madueke.
A breakdown of the items include: 419 bangles, 315 rings, 304 earrings, 189 wristwatches, 267 necklaces, and a customised gold iPhone.
The money laundering trial involving a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, is still hanging before the Federal High Court, Lagos.
The trial has suffered several adjournments due to a number of factors, including the strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), EndSARS protest, court vacation and transfer of judges.
Fani-Kayode is standing trial alongside a former Minister of State for Finance, Esther Nenadi Usman, Danjuma Yusuf and a firm, Joint Trust Dimensions Limited on a 17-count charge of conspiracy, unlawful retention of proceeds of theft and money laundering.
The EFCC alleged that the defendants conspired to directly and indirectly retain N300m, N400m and N800m, which they reasonably ought to know were proceeds of corruption.
The ongoing trial of embattled former governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, is pending before a Federal High Court in Lagos. The case has suffered several setbacks and is now billed to resume soon.
According to the charge, Fayose was alleged to have procured the companies, Still Earth Ltd and De Privateer Ltd, to retain in their account, the aggregate sum of N851m.
Fayose is being prosecuted by the EFCC over N6.9bn fraud and money laundering charges.
He was first arraigned on October 22, 2018, before Justice Mojisola Olatotegun, alongside his company, Spotless Investment Ltd, on 11 counts bordering on fraud and money laundering.
He had pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted bail on October 24, 2018, in the sum of N50m, with sureties in like sum.
The defendant was subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke on July 2, 2019, after the case was withdrawn from Justice Olatoregun following EFCC’s petition.
He also pleaded not guilty to the charges and was allowed to continue on the earlier bail granted, while the case was adjourned for trial.
The commission has since opened its case before Justice Aneke and is still leading witnesses in evidence.
The trial of former acting governor and incumbent governor of Adamawa State, Ahmadu Umar Fintiri, before a Federal High Court in Abuja, has stalled following his emergence as governor in February, 2019.
The EFCC filed a five-count charge of money laundering valued at N2.9bn against the former acting governor.
The case has been stalled due to the immunity provision of Section 308 of the Nigerian constitution, 1999.
A former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chairman, Bello Halliru, and his son, Sagir, were charged over alleged receipt of N300m from arms purchase funds from a former NSA, Dasuki, on March 17, 2015.
The case is set to resume on a date yet to be ascertained because the presiding judge in the matter, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, who is one of the vacation judges, would commence vacation sometime in October.
Several setbacks had dogged the case, including an emergency medical trip outside the country by the former PDP chairman.
The EFCC had contended that the funds were paid to the company of Bello Haliru’s son, Bam Projects and Property Ltd, for estate development project through the ‘safe houses’ project and PDP election campaigns.
The anti-graft agency argued that the office of the NSA is an advisory security department and not supposed to issue security contracts or fund election campaigns.
The trial of a former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido and others, is still pending before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Several factors, including the case being handled by four different judges, including the deceased former presiding judge in the matter, Justice Evo Chukwu, contributed to the delay in the conclusion of the case.
The case is expected to resume in September.
Lamido was arraigned in September 2016 before Justice Adeniyi Ademola on a 43-count charge bordering on conspiracy, abuse of office and money laundering, valued at N1.351bn.
He was charged with his two sons: Aminu and Mustapha; a former aide, Wada Abubakar and four companies: Baimana Holdings Ltd, Bamaina Company Nigeria Ltd, Bamaina Alumunium Ltd, Speeds International Ltd and Batholomew Darlington Agoha.
The case suffered a setback after Justice Ademola retired. It was re-assigned to Justice Chukwu, who passed away, forcing the matter to be re-assigned to Justice Babatunde Quadri.
Following Justice Quadri’s transfer, the matter was re-assigned to Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu.
The case had to start all over, but the EFCC called its last witness in the trial.
The trial of a former chairman of the defunct Pension Reform Taskforce Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, is still pending before a Federal High Court in Abuja, after several dramatic setbacks.
The resumption of Maina’ case is still uncertain as the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, has been transferred to Delta State.
The judge had earlier refused his fresh application for bail on the grounds that he had jumped bail earlier.
Abdulrasheed Maina was initially declared to be at large in the corruption charges filed against a former Head of Service of the Federation, Steve Oronsaye in May 2016.
He was eventually arraigned on October 25, 2019 alongside his son, Faisal on a 12-count charge and three counts respectively.
He was alleged to have conducted unlawfully laundered pension funds valued at N2bn through various banks with fictitious names.
He was also accused of using Common Input Properties & Investment Limited to launder funds to acquire landed properties in Abuja.
He was granted bail but failed to fulfill the terms after six months as his lawyers described them as too stringent.
When he finally regained freedom on health grounds and after Senator Ali Ndume (Borno South) accepted to act as his surety, he jumped bail while the lawmaker was sent to jail in Kuje for one week for failing to produce him.
After he absconded, Maina was traced to Niger Republic and re-arrested on November 30, 2020. His son was also alleged to have fled the country.
His fresh request for bail was on February 25 rejected by Justice Okon Abang, who held that he could not be trusted with a fresh bail, having jumped bail in the first instance.
Different lawyers had appeared for Maina and each withdrew, citing one reason or another. Among the lawyers are Ahmed Raji (SAN), Afam Osigwe (SAN), Joe Gadzama (SAN), Esther Uzoma (late), Anayo Adibe, Sani Katu (SAN) and Abel Adaji.
The trial of a former Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, on allegations of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering over the 2013 Nigerian Immigration Service recruitment, has been slated for September 28 and 29, 2021.
Moro is, since May 11, 2016, being tried before a Federal High Court in Abuja, alongside a former permanent secretary in the ministry, Mrs Anastasia Daniel-Nwobia and former director in the ministry, Felix Alayebami.
The presiding judge in the matter, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, had on June 25, 2020, struck out the name of the firm, Drexel Tech Nigeria Ltd following a no case submission.
The EFCC had accused Moro, now senator representing Benue South, and other suspected defrauding applicants, of the sum of N657.6m for the recruitment after making them pay N1,000 each via an online portal.
The trial of a former minister of the FCT and governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, has stalled following his election as governor in February 2019.
Mohammed was arraigned on May 10, 2017 by the EFCC on a six-count charge bordering on abuse of office, false declaration of assets and fraud, to the tune of N864m.
The immunity provision in the Nigerian constitution means he will not be appearing in court any time soon.
A former governor of Enugu State, Senator Chimaraoke Nnamani, was charged 105 counts bordering on money laundering and fraud, valued N4.5bn by EFCC.
The trial of Nnamani, who was charged alongside his former aide, Sunday Anyaogu, stalled since 2019 after the initial charges were withdrawn for amendment.
The move the former governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, to quash the 37-count charges of money laundering brought against him in July 2015 was dismissed by the court.
The EFCC had accused Nyako, his son, Abdulaziz, his two aides: Zulfikk Abba and Abubakar Aliyu, of money laundering, to the tune of N29 billion.
Others are Crust Energy Ltd, Blue Opal Ltd, Sebore Farms and Extension Ltd, Pagoda Fortunes Ltd and Tower Assets Management Ltd.
But after the EFCC concluded its case with 21 witnesses and several bank and contract documents before the court in March 2020, Nyako’s counsel, Kanu Agabi (SAN) filed a no-case submission, asking the court to quash the charges against him for want of prima facie evidence.
But on July 19, Justice Okon Abang dismissed the application and ordered the former governor to open his defence in the matter on October 5, 6 and 7.
The trial of a former chairman of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP), Okoi Obono-Obla, on allegations of certificate forgery and diversion of funds to the tune of N19.9 million has stalled, with no definite date.
The case was affected by the industrial strike embarked upon by judicial workers in April 6, after the defendants were granted bail in March.
The former S.A was in January arraigned, alongside aides, Aliyu Ibrahim and Daniel Omughele, on 10 counts of conspiracy to divert the sum.
He was further accused of dishonestly using as genuine, a “Mary Knoll College, Ogoja General Certificate in Education (GCE), Ordinary Level, May/June 1982 statement of result for Ofem Okoi Ofem, with candidate no: 09403/247 showing an O’Level credit (6) score for Literature.”
The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) accused him of using the said document to seek admission to read Law during the 1985/86 academic session in the University of Jos, knowing that same was forged.
A former governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim’s trial before a Federal High Court in Abuja on three counts of alleged concealment of an Abuja property worth $2.9m (N270m) is still pending since 2015.
The former governor said the property was a proceed of another one in Maitama, Abuja, worth N250m, which he sold. He also denied paying in dollars for the property.
But the EFCC witness, Abu Sule of Tweenex Concosiates HD Ltd stated that he bought the property on behalf of the ex-governor.
The case has been affected by the effects of the recent industrial action embarked upon by the JUSUN to press for the financial autonomy of the courts in the country.
The trial of a former Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo Ita, on bribery charges worth N467m suffered a setback which forced the case to be indefinitely suspended.
The presiding judge in the matter, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, in March ordered the suspension of the matter indefinitely on grounds that the prosecution, the EFCC must purge itself of contempt of court before the matter can continue.
The judge criticised EFCC’s resort to “forum shopping” and “judge shopping” after it went to a separate court to seek preservative orders on assets allegedly linked to the former HOS without recourse to the court.
Oyo Ita was arraigned in 2020 on 18 counts of contract bribery, alongside Garba Umar and Ubong Okon Effiok.
The companies listed are Frontline Ace Global Services Ltd, Asanaya Projects Ltd, Slopes International Ltd, Good deal Investment Ltd and Prince Mega Logistics Ltd.
The trial of a former governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, is still pending before a Federal High Court in Abuja, where it is billed to resume on October 21.
Suswam, who is senator representing Benue North, was in November 2015 arraigned, alongside his then Commissioner for Finance, Omodachi Okolobia, before a Federal High Court in Abuja on charges of money laundering.
Suswam and Oklobia were re-arraigned on an amended 11-count charge bordering on theft, criminal breach of trust, illegal award of contracts and money laundering, to the tune of N3.1bn, mainly from Benue shares from the Dangote Cement, which was meant for investment into the Benue Investment and Property Company Ltd.
The matter suffered several setbacks, including being transferred to different judges of the court.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed, who was presiding over the trial initially, had to hands off following media reports by online platforms linking him to untoward actions to influence the outcome of the case.
The matter was in June 2016 transferred to Justice Okon Abang, who was forced to indefinitely adjourn after an online platform reported sighting him and the EFCC counsel in the matter, Rotimi Jacob (SAN) in a meeting to jail Suswam.
Justice Abang then ordered the Inspector-General of Police, Department of State Services and the EFCC to investigate the allegation.
But in February 2020, the Court of Appeal in Abuja ordered Justice Abang to hands off the matter and return it to Justice Ahmed Mohammed.
The trial of a former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Andrew Yakubu, has been ongoing since 2017.
The EFCC had charged Yakubu of money laundering after the sums of $9,772, 800 and £74,000 were recovered from his home in Kaduna, Kaduna State, on February 3, 2017.
Documentation issues and other complaints have dogged the case’s speedy end since its commencement.
The Court of Appeal in Abuja had on July 2020 allowed Yakubu to defend only three out of the six charges preferred against him by the EFCC.
The trial of a former governor of Jigawa State, Saminu Turaki, on allegations of money laundering valued at N37bn, has been stalled following its transfer to a Federal High Court in Abuja from a High Court in Dutse in 2017.
Those charged with him are INC Natural Resources Ltd, Arkel Construction Nigeria Ltd and Wildcat Construction Ltd.
The date for resumption of hearing in the matter could not be ascertained due to the vacation of the courts.
Cases concluded but overturned on appeal
Although a former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu’s case of money laundering, to the tune of N7.5bn was concluded on December 5, 2019 and he was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment, the Supreme Court, on May 8, 2020, nullified his conviction for being hinged on an “unconstitutional” provision of section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.
The section was relied on by the presiding judge, who was elevated to the Court of Appeal to return to conclude the trial so that it would not start afresh when referred to another judge.
Since this year, Kalu has challenged fresh moves by the EFCC to re-arraign him before a Federal High Court in Abuja, insisting that it would amount to double jeopardy.
The case of a former spokesman of the PDP, Olisa Metuh, was concluded as he was on February 25, 2020 sentenced to seven years imprisonment on the charge of receiving the sum of N400m from former NSA, Sambo Dasuki.
The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, had ordered that his company, Destra Investment Ltd be wound up while he was fined N375m, to be paid to the federal government.
But the Court of Appeal, on December 16, nullified the conviction of Metuh and ordered a retrial, on the ground that the judge and the proceedings were manifestly biased and conducted without any regard to the constitutional rights of the defendant.
Fresh moves by the EFCC to seek Metuh’s return to the correctional centre have been pending before the Supreme Court.
The money laundering charges against former chairman of the Daar Communications Plc, Raymond Dokpesi was in April nullified by the Court of Appeal in Abuja, which also discharged and acquitted him.
The court, on April 1, upheld a no-case-submission he filed in respect of the charges filed against him by the EFCC over an allegation of receiving N2.1bn from Sambo Dasukim before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
But he argued that the funds were paid to the company for the publicity of the PDP in its presidential campaign tours in 2015.
A former governor of Adamawa State, Bala James Ngilari, was jailed in 2017 for five years over an award of contract worth N167.8m without due process as prescribed in section 58(5) of the Public Procurement Act.
He was, however, granted post-sentence bail on medical ground in April 2017. Three officials of the then Nigerian Prisons Service were indicted for procuring a fraudulent medical report for the ex-governor.
Both former governors of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye and Taraba, The Rev Jolly Nyame, failed in their appeals after they were sentenced in April 2018 to 14 years by an FCT High Court.
Dariye was jailed for diverting N2bn ecological funds belonging to Plateau State. However, after his post-sentence appeal, the Court of Appeal in Abuja reduced the sentence to 10 years in November of 2018.
Nyame’s 14 years imprisonment for misappropriating the sum of N1.64bn security votes following his arraignment in 2007 was reduced by the Court of Appeal in Abuja to 12 years after his post-sentence appeal.
The Supreme Court in February 2020 confirmed both sentences.
Lawyers speak on delays
Okonache Ogar, a lawyer, said there was no hard-and-fast rule to the issue of technicality, but added that the blame was more on litigants and parties than judges. He said innovations had been introduced to ensure speedy dispensation of justice.
“You have other shenanigans exhibited by officers in power. Take what the DSS is doing in Igboho’s case, where the court gives order and they refuse to obey. Are you going to blame the judge?” He asked.
Also, according to Deji Ekemgba, the problem is that judges are not enough in the courts, especially with specialisation in various areas of law.
“Here, one judge will deal with rape and civil matters. This does not bring out the best from judges. Also, a judge will have 20 cases in a day. What is going on is part of the societal decay, and the courts are helpless,” he said.
He added that the adoption of the ACJA also meant that lawyers would not afford to seek easy adjournments or delay tactics in trials as it used to be in the past.
Hameed Ajibola Jimoh also said it all depended on judges. According to him, “With due respect, some judges fall for technicality, especially in trial courts, but the appellate courts are the saving grace.”
John C. Azu, Haruna Ibrahim (Abuja) & Adelanwa Bamgboye (Lagos)