By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The National Judicial Council, NJC, on Sunday, gave its progress report on some of the ongoing high-profile corruption cases in the country, disclosing that within the past six months, a total of 324 judgments were delivered by the Special Courts that were designated in 2017 to try graft and financial crime cases.
The legal body, in a press statement that was signed by its Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, however observed that 12 cases were struck out on various grounds, while 62 pending cases were reserved for judgement.
It said the breakdown was contained in a report card that was submitted by the Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trials Monitoring Committee, COTRIMCO.
The Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Walter Onnoghen, who doubles as Chairman of the NJC, had in November 2017, inaugurated the COTRIMCO with a mandate to tour the six geo-political zones of the country to determine reasons why trial of some high-profile cases have been stalled for years.
Over 30 of such pending cases involved former Governors, Ministers and lawmakers who were alleged to have looted public funds running into billions of Naira.
It will however be recalled that two former governors of Taraba and Plateau States, Reverend Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye, respectively, were recently sentenced to 14 years imprisonment by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory which found them giulty of stealing and misappropriation of public funds.
Meantime, the NJC, said its corruption trial monitoring committee which is headed by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Suleiman Galadima, had in the last six months, crisscrossed the country to monitor and ensure compliance with the directive of the CJN to ensure speedy dispensation of such cases.
It noted that before the formation of the Committee, the Chief Justice, during a Special Session of the Supreme Court to mark the commencement of the 2017/2018 Legal Year, directed all the Heads of Court in the country to designate Special Courts solely for the purpose of expediting hearing on such pending cases.
The CJN further ordered that a list of such cases should be compiled and handed over to the COTRIMCO.
According to the NJC statement, upon receipt of the lists, the Committee divided itself into three sub-committees to cater for the easy monitoring and evaluation of the said cases in the different zones of the country as follows: Zone A: Abuja and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Zone B: Northern Zone and Zone C: Southern Zone.
Giving a breakdown of how the courts in each zone performed, the NJC said: “Of the total number of 324 judgements delivered, the Supreme Court, in Zone A, delivered 52 judgements and reserved seven cases for judgement from the list of 125 cases pending before it, leaving an outstanding number of 73 cases.
“The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, within the period, also disposed of 74 appeals and reserved 11 for judgement from the list of 137 cases in its docket.
“The Federal High Court delivered two judgements from the 91 pending cases before it, while the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory likewise delivered three judgements and reserve one case for judgement thereby leaving an outstanding number of 178 cases pending.
“In Zone B, Northern Zone, 62 judgements were delivered by the six Court of Appeal Divisions, 19 Federal High Court Divisions and 19 High Courts of various Northern States from the total number of 425 cases pending in the Zone, while 12 cases were struck out.
“From the 12 cases struck out, five are from the Court of Appeal and seven from High Courts of three States.
The designated Courts in Zone C, (Southern Zone), have delivered judgements in 131 out of the 952 corruption and financial crime cases on-going at the various Courts and reserved 43 cases for judgements.
“From the total number of judgements delivered in the zone, the Federal High Court delivered seven judgements out of a total of 304 cases pending before it; while the High Courts of 17 States delivered 124 cases from the 524 on-going in their various Courts.
“The Court of Appeal in the zone has reserved 31 out of 121 appeals pending in the Court for judgement. The Federal High Court, on its part, reserved three cases for judgement while the various State High Courts in the Zone have reserved nine cases for judgement”.
It said the Committee would continue the exercise after the courts’ vacation.