In 1849, French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, coined the adage, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.”
Centuries after this adage was coined, it rings very loud not just in Nigeria, but across the world.
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In this piece, we look at how the prominent class in Nigeria apparently use ill health as a strategy to get out of trouble.
The most decorated officer in the history of the Nigerian Police Force is believed to be the latest person to adopt this strategy. Kyari, who is currently under the custody of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), over alleged drug trafficking, applied for bail after a week in detention.
In an ex-parte motion marked: FHC/ANJ/CS/182/22, Kyari, through his lawyer, C.O. Ikena, sought bail on health grounds.
“My lord, his (Kyari’s) condition at the custody is critical. I filed a motion to admit the applicant to a bail on health grounds pending the determination of the substantive matter,” she told the court.
Six years before Kyari caught the headlines for the wrong reason, Femi Fani-Kayode, a former aviation minister, suddenly slumped at the premises of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Abuja, while in detention over N4.9 billion he allegedly obtained illegally from the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
The ex-Minister, who served as a spokesman of the Goodluck Jonathan campaign in the buildup to the 2015 election, fell ill after spending 67 days in detention. The EFCC is currently trying him for forgery as he was said to have obtained false medical documents to evade justice.
In 2018, Olisa Metuh, a former spokesperson of the PDP, took the drama a bit higher as he was brought into a Federal High Court in Abuja in an ambulance and pushed into the courtroom on a stretcher. Before then, there had been different dramas on ill health; he once collapsed while walking to the dock. The judge, Justice Akon Abang, however, proceeded with the trial even while the defendant was on the floor, despite an expression of disapproval from Metuh’s counsel.
The former PDP spokesman was standing an alleged N400 million fraud trial and transaction of $2 million cash that didn’t go through a financial institution.
The Senator, who represented Kogi West in the 8th National Assembly, slumped at the police headquarters in Abuja, appearing weak and unable to walk by himself. Melaye had been arrested after he refused to honour a police invitation for about eight days over an investigation into certain assassination attempt claims.
In 2009, the former CEO of now-defunct Oceanic Bank plc, Cecilia Ibru, collapsed in the dock while charges against her were being read. Ibru, who all had appeared stressed up before collapsing, suddenly slumped in the dock after 18 of the 25-count charge had been read to her, which caused a panic in the court. The session had to be halted for about 10 minutes before her doctor who had accompanied her to the court, attended to her and informed the court she was fit to continue with the trial.
Kemebradikumo Pondei was the acting managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) who in 2020 “passed out” during a session at a House of Representatives’ Committee probing financial misappropriations in the commission. He was being questioned over alleged mismanagement of N81.5 billion by the interim management of the NDDC he was leading, when he “fainted.” The session had to be adjourned for fifteen minutes to enable the lawmakers to determine whether or not to continue the probe.
Alison-Madueke was minister of petroleum under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. She allegedly stole billion of dollars, according to the EFCC. Shortly after President Muhmmadu Buhari won the 2015 election, she was reportedly sighted with him in the same plane jetting out of the country. Some months later, pictures of her looking old with wrinkled skin and deteriorating hair were released by Dele Momodu, the publisher of Ovation Magazine, who is currently a presidential aspirant of PDP. In an interview she granted to Momodu’s online platform, The Boss, Diezani had said she had been undergoing chemotherapy.
In 2019, the former chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT) appeared in a wheelchair for his trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja. Maina’s trial had been stalled due to his reported ill health. A prosecutor had questioned the health report brought to the hospital to announce Maina’s ill health.
Maina, who was in hiding for almost two years, was arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS), which had hitherto been accused of shielding him from arrest.
Maina was arraigned on October 25, 2019, and pleaded not guilty to the 12-count charge of N100 billion pension fraud brought against him. Two years later, he was convicted and he is currently serving an eight-year jail term.
As it is with civilians, so it is in the military. They are all Nigerians after all. In September 2019, Major General Hakeem Otiki, General Officer Commanding 8 Division Nigerian Army, appeared in a wheelchair during his trial in the General Court Martial (GCM). He was accused to have stolen large sum of money.
In January 2016, Haliru Mohammed former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, appeared before a Federal High Court in Abuja, in a wheelchair, following allegations of his involvement in the $2 billion arms deal.
Former adviser to former President Jonathan on Amnesty programme, Kingsley Kuku, left the country shortly after Jonathan’s tenure ended. The EFCC had summoned him to answer questions bordering on misappropriation of funds but had immediately written a letter to the agency, saying he would not honour the invitation because he was at a US hospital.
He later released photos of himself at the St. Andrew Hospital, Birmingham, Alabama, where he was said to have underwent a knee surgery.