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Justice on a slow lane

In this second part of the report that was first published yesterday, Sagay, Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, continues his argument and blamed the courts for failing to deal with the excesses of some senior lawyers encouraging delayed trials
Judges, judiciary to problem —Prof Sagay

For instance, in the opinion of the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-Corruption, PACAC, Prof. Itse Sagay, before the ACJ Act was enacted, Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs, representing allegedly corrupt governors had a field day frustrating the trial process with preliminary objections.

Olisa Metuh

Preliminary objection

He said the coming of the Act was supposed to have put paid to this, but that the courts failed to exercise the power afforded them by the Act in dealing with lawyers who indulge in unduly prolonging trials. He also  added the curious twist that the EFCC will “know exactly why these cases are being delayed”. He did not stop there.

“Before the passing of the Administration of Criminal Justice, ACJ Act, the senior advocates who were representing these people indulged in frustration of the process with preliminary objections which can go on up to the Supreme Court and come back, after 10 years. Then the case will start all over again. That is the original cause of the delays.

“But with the new Act, they can no longer do that. That is why it is possible to take a preliminary objection and the main case together. It is an inherited problem. Recently, you know Orji’s case came back from the Supreme Court. There is no way it would have gone very far, a matter that started at least 10 years ago. That is the general major cause”.

Sagay explained that this ordinarily
should not be the case since the ACJ Act empowers the courts to deal with the excesses of these lawyers. According to him: “The laws that we have now give the court the powers to curtail these excesses or what I will call gross misconduct on the part of lawyers. The sad part is that the courts are not using their powers.

“The provision of the 2015 Administration of Criminal Justice Act empowers the judge not to grant adjournments for more than 14 days. That is number one. It insists that trial must be from day-to-day. It also insists that if you bring an application, which is interlocutory, in other words, a case is filed and the next thing is for the other side to file an application that the court has no jurisdiction or that the charge is defective.

“The court is empowered to take the application and the main case together. You must not adjourn to hear the application and then give a ruling on it; against which they will now appeal. The court is compelled by law to take that application and still continue with the main case.

“Furthermore, if for any reason any lawyer is dissatisfied with any procedure and appeals to the Court of Appeal, the High Court is compelled to go on with the case and not to stall the case for that of the Court of Appeal. So, it is not the fault of the lawyers but
because they are not being controlled. The judges are ignoring the powers they have been given.

“You will see judges adjourning for two or three months, whereas the law does not allow them to adjourn for more than 14 days. The judge do not have to adjourn for ruling, but give both ruling and judgement on the same day. The problem is the judges. The judiciary is the problem in this case.”

SANs defending accused to blame—Falana

On his part, popular human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, SAN, prefers to blame some of his SAN colleagues for perpetrating and perpetuating the unhealthy scenario. He affirmed  his confidence that ACJ Act had succeeded to a large extent in bringing some measure of sanity in the administration of justice, unlike what obtained in the past.

He said: “The issue of delay in the trial of the politically exposed persons no doubt wreaked havoc on our criminal justice system in the past, where the accused person approached the court through their lawyers who were well paid to file series of frivolous applications seeking to stop their trial or delay it in a way.

Interlocutory  applications

“Most of them will file interlocutory applications asking the court to strike out the offences brought against them for want of jurisdiction. When they filed such applications and the trial court rule against them, they move straight away to the Court of Appeal to challenge the ruling. Even some of them went as far as the Supreme Court to challenge or appeal against mere interlocutory order.

“All these have been responsible for the delay in the trials of such people. Their cases will be moving from one court to the other and one   judge to the other. No doubt, some of the delays arose from the deliberate actions of those accused of the criminal offences.

“However, with the passage of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, some of those steps or acts by such persons aimed at delaying trials are no more possible. If someone files an interlocutory application either challenging the jurisdiction of the court, both application and the substantive case will be taken together. Hence there will be little or no delay recorded in such trial now.

DANJUMA GOJE—GOMBE STATE

 Charge: Alleged defrauding of the state of N25b through illegal acts

Status of Case: Matter adjourned to April 10 – 11, 2018 for continuation of trial

Danjuma Goje took office as the Governor of Gombe State on May 29, 2003. He is a serving senator and is being prosecuted by the EFCC for conspiring with three officers of his administration to defraud the state of N25 billion via illegal acts, contrary to, and punishable under sections 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act) 2011 as amended.

Goje was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,  EFCC, in relation to alleged financial impropriety, including contract on food supply to the State Government House during his tenure as well as loan facilities taken from Access Bank and Union Bank.

Contract on food supply:

The matter which has been in court for six years before Justice Babatunde Quadiri of the Federal High Court Jos,  came up on Tuesday, February 6, 2017 with the 24th prosecution witness testifying. The judge adjourned to April 10 – 11, 2018 for continuation of trial.

*MURTALA NYAKO-  ADAMAWA STATE

Charge: Alleged stealing, abuse of office, and money laundering to the tune of N29b

Status of case: Matter adjourned to February 26, 2018 for ruling on the admissibility of witness document.

Vice Admiral Murtala Nyako was elected Executive Governor of Adamawa State in May 2007. He is being prosecuted by the EFCC on 37 counts of conspiracy, stealing, abuse of office, and money laundering to the tune of N29bn.

Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja, on February 6, 2018, adjourned the case to February 26, 2018 for ruling on the admissibility of a document tendered by Zakari Uthman, the 17th prosecution witness.

  • BALA JAMES NGILARI-  ADAMAWA STATE

Charge: Alleged failure to adhere to the procurement laws of the state

Status of case: Appeal Court discharged and acquitted Ngilari

Former Governor, Bala James Ngilari, was convicted and jailed by a High Court in Yola, Adamawa State, for failing to adhere to the procurement laws of the state. He was charged on September 21, 2016. Justice Nathan Musa found the former governor guilty of four charges, and discharged him on one, which bordered on conspiracy.

However an Appeal Court sitting in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, presided over by Justice Folashade Omoleye, discharged and acquitted Ngilari of the five-count charge bordering on corruption and unlawful procurement.

The appellate court set aside the ruling of a Yola high court presided over by Justice Nathan Musa. Meantime, the trial remains in abeyance.

  • ALAO AKALA- OYO STATE       Charge: Alleged misappropriation of N11.5 billion from the state’s treasury

Status of case: Court ruled that he has a case to answer in the corruption trial

Adebayo Alao-Akala became governor in January 2006, a position he occupied till May 2011. However, troubled started for Akala in 2011 when EFCC charged him for alleged conspiracy and misappropriation of N11.5 billion from the state’s treasury.

Justice Akintunde Boade of the Oyo State High Court sitting in Ibadan in December 2012 ruled that   Alao-Akala has a case to answer.

  • RASHEED LADOJA-  OYO STATE Charge: Alleged N4.7 billion money laundering

Status of case: Trial resumed on  February 12  and continued on 14 and 15, 2018]

Rashidi Ladoja was elected governor of Oyo State in April 2003 and took office on May 29, 2003. He was impeached in January 2006, but reinstated in December 2006. His term ended in 2007 and in 2008. He was charged with corruption during his tenure in office. On August 28, 2008, Ladoja was arrested by the EFCC over allegations of non-remittance of the proceeds of sale of government shares totalling N1.9 billion during his administration.

He was briefly remanded in prison by the Federal High Court in Lagos  on  August 30, 2008 after his arraignment for N4.7 billion money laundering charge. Ladoja was granted bail on September 5, 2098 in the amount of N100 million with two sureties for the same sum.

  • GBENGA DANIEL-  OGUN STATECharge: Alleged N200m criminal breach of trust and abuse of office

Status of case: He was granted bail after which trial commenced

Gbenga Daniel was Governor  of  Ogun State  from May 29, 2003 to May 29, 2011. On Wednesday, October 12, 2011, Gbenga Daniel was first arraigned by the EFCC on a 13-count charge of being involved in a N58b scam.

But the trial judge, Justice Olarenwaju Mabekoje, struck out the charges and released Daniel on technical grounds, saying that the charges were not supported with factual documents. The Judge, however, advised the prosecution to reapply after they must have done their home work well.

On  April 16, 2012, Daniel was re-arraigned on a 38-count charge which borders on misappropriation of fund amounting to over N200 million, criminal breach of trust and abuse of office while he held sway as governor of Ogun State. He was, however, granted bail and trial commenced.

  • ALIYU AKWE DOMA- NASARAWA STATE

Charge: Alleged diversion of N8 billion of state funds

Aliyu Akwe Doma  became governor of Nasarawa State in May 2007. The  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, accused him of diverting N8 billion of state funds, between January 2007 and December 2009, in a 10-count charge of money laundering and financial crimes. He was charged before a  Federal High Court in Lagos.

  • ATTAHIRU BAFARAWA-  SOKOTO STATE

Charge: Alleged cheating, criminal breach of trust, and diversion of public funds to the tune of N15b

Status of Case: Adjourned to  March 15 and 16,  2018  for accused persons to open their defence

Attahiru Bafarawa was governor of Sokoto State from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007. Justice Bello Abbas of the Sokoto State High Court, sitting in Sokoto on Wednesday, January 31, 2018, dismissed an application by the former governor seeking to quash a N15 billion fraud charge preferred against him and six others by the EFCC.

Bafarawa is being prosecuted on an amended 34-count charge of cheating, criminal breach of trust and diversion of public funds to the tune of over N15 billion. The money was allegedly misappropriated when Bafarawa held sway as the governor of the state between 1999 and 2007.

Upon arraignment in December 2009, Bafarawa and his co-accused pleaded not guilty to the 47 counts preferred against them.  The case was adjourned to  March 15 and 16,  2018  for the accused persons to open their defence.

  • SAMINU TURAKI-  JIGAWACharge: Alleged misappropriation of N36 bn while in office

Saminu Turaki is a former governor of Jigawa State, who served two terms from 1999 to 2007. He was first arraigned by the EFCC before Justice Binta Murtala Nyako of the Federal Capital Territory High Court on July 13, 2007 on a 32-count charge of misappropriating N36 billion while in office. Following his arraignment, he was granted bail in the sum of N100 million with two federal legislators, Bawa Bwari and Bashir Adamu, standing as his sureties.

In 2011, the case was transferred to the Federal High Court, Dutse after the accused successfully challenged the jurisdiction of the FCT division of the court. He was subsequently re-arraigned on the same 32-count charge in Dutse.

  • JOSHUA DARIYE-  PLATEAUCharge: Alleged defrauding the state of about N1.6 billion

Status of case: To face trial at  the Supreme Court

Joshua Dariye, a  former Plateau State Governor, assumed office on May 29, 1999 .  He was re-elected for another four-year term starting in May 2003, and was impeached in November 2006 though the impeachment was nullified by the Appeal Court in March 2007, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court the following month effectively returning Dariye to office for the remainder of his tenure.

However, on July 13, 2007 he was brought before an FCT High Court in Gudu on a 23-count charge preferred against him by the EFCC for defrauding the state of about N1.6 billion. The trial judge, Justice Adebukola Banjoko, adjourned to  December 7, 2017  “for adoption of written addresses”.

Dariye then proceeded to the Supreme Court to quash the charge that began on July 13, 2007. The Supreme Court, however, dismissed his application on February 27, 2015 and ordered him to go face his trial.  His trial recommenced on January 25, 2016

  • JOLLY NYAME-  TARABA STATECharge: Alleged misappropriation of Taraba funds to the tune of N1.64 billion

Jolly Nyame was Governor of Taraba  from May 29, 1999 to May 29, 2007. He earlier served as governor of the state from January 1992 to November 1993. Nyame is facing trial for alleged misappropriation of state funds to the tune of N1.64 billion during his tenure as the governor (1999-2007).

The trial commenced on January 23, 2018, in the Gudu division of an FCT High Court. The presiding Judge, Justice Adebukola Banjoko, adjourned the trial to February 28, 2018, to give the prosecution and defence time to complete the processes.

  • SULE LAMIDO-  JIGAWA STATECharge: Alleged abuse of office and money laundering

Status of case: Adjourned pending the reassignment of the case by Chief Judge of FHC

Sule Lamido served as Foreign Affairs Minister from 1999 to 2003. He was elected governor of Jigawa State in April 2007 and took office on May 29, 2007.  Lamido is being prosecuted by the EFCC on a 27-count charge bordering on abuse of office and money laundering, before Justice Babatunde Quadri of Federal High Court in Abuja.

Money laundering

He appeared in court on Monday, January 29, 2018 for the corruption trial. After sitting, the court adjourned the case to an unspecified date, pending the reassignment of the case by Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.

  • ALIYU DOMA —  NASARAWA STATE

Charge: Allegedly laundering state funds to the tune of N8bn

Aliyu Akwe Doma  was elected governor of Nasarawa State  in May 2007.  He was  prosecuted by the EFCC on a 10-count charge bordering on money laundering and financial crimes.

He was accused of having between January 2007 and December 2009 allegedly conspired and fraudulently laundered state funds to the tune of N8bn, an offence contrary to Section 14(1)(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004 and punishable under section 14(1) of the same Act.

  • IKEDI OHAKIM-  IMO STATECharge: Allegedly making cash payment of $2.29 million for land

Ikedi Ohakim, after winning a rescheduled election in April 28, 2007, became governor of Imo State. The charge against Ohakim arose from his alleged purchase of the property at 60, Kwame Nkrumah Street, Plot No 1098, Cadastral ZoneA04, Asokoro District, Abuja with cash payment of $2.29m which was said to be dollar equivalent of N270m in November 2008.

The charges against him border on money laundering, abuse of office and misappropriation of public funds.

The  Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, however, deferred Ohakim’s arraignment last year, October 5, following an application for his re-arraignment. The matter was heard by Justice Adeniyi Ademola until the judge withdrew following allegations of fraud against the judge himself last year.

  • OLISAH METUH – PDP National Publicity Secretary

Erstwhile National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh,  has been facing corruption charges in court since 2016.

Metuh is answering to a seven-count criminal charge alongside his firm, Destra Investment Limited.

EFCC is prosecuting him over allegation that he had before the 2015 Presidential election, received N400million from the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, without executing any contract.

The agency alleged that the fund was electronically wired from an account that ONSA operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to Metuh, via account no. 0040437573, which his firm operated with Diamond Bank Plc.

It told the court that the fund which was released to Metuh and his firm by detained former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd,   was part of about $2.1billion earmarked for the purchase of arms to fight insurgency in the North East.

Besides, the prosecution which had earlier closed its case after it called eight witnesses that testfied before the court, equally alleged that Metuh was involved in an illicit transaction that involved the exchange of $2million.

 

 


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