The courts are expected to be busy this year. In his New Year’s speech, President Muhammadu Buhari restated his administration’s commitment to fight corruption. Several high-profile cases are in court. Will they be concluded this year? ERIC IKHILAE, ADEBISI ONANUGA, JOSEPH JIBUEZE and ROBERT EGBE highlight some of the cases which are of public interest.
FOR the courts, 2016 ended on a busy note. There was a deluge of high-profile criminal cases because of the Federal Government’s resolve to prosecute suspected corrupt public officers. Hearing in the cases continues this year. How will they end?
In his New Year’s speech, President Muhammadu Buhari vowed not to relent in his fight against corruption.
He said: “Our determination to wrestle corruption to the ground remains unshaken. This fight, which will be guided by respect for the rule of law and due process, will not spare anybody or organ of government.
“It is a collective undertaking and resolve that must be seen to its logical conclusion in spite of certain distractions. The fate of our country lies partly in the success of this campaign. It will be unthinkable on my part to allow the boat of this crucial campaign promise to capsize mid-stream.”
Some of the impending cases are:
Saraki’s trial at CCT
The Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) will resume proceedings in the trial of Senate President, Bukola Saraki on January 11. He is facing a 13-count charge of false assets declaration. The case has witnessed various delays since the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) filed the charge on September 14, 2015.
Though Saraki took his plea on September 22, 2015, the prosecution has been unable to move beyond calling its first witness. After months of delays, with Saraki challenging almost every step taken by the tribunal, its jurisdiction and the composition, trial eventually commenced last April 5 with the prosecution calling its first witness, Michael Wetkas.
The prosecution wasted no time as Wetkas concluded his evidence-in-chief on April 18 (within three adjournments). But it took the defence 14 adjournments, spanning over seven months to cross-examine the first prosecution witness.
The defence team, comprising of senior lawyers like Kanu Agabi (SAN), Joseph Daudu (SAN), Paul Erokoro (SAN), Paul Usoro (SAN), Mahmud Magaji (SAN), among others, cross-examined Wetkas between April 18 and November 8, last year.
When the defence announced its conclusion of what the prosecution counsel Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) described as the longest cross-examination in the history of the nation’s criminal jurisprudence, the tribunal also stunned all when it adjourned further proceedings from November 8 to January 11.
Judges in the dock
Legal fireworks are expected to commence when proceedings open early this year in the cases involving Justice Sylvester Ngwuta (of the Supreme Court), Justice Adeniyi Ademola (of the Federal High Court) and his wife, Olabolwale
Justice Ngwuta was arraigned before Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja on November 21 on a 16-count charge bordering on allegations of corrupt enrichment, violations of money laundering laws, passport fraud and attempt to obstruct justice. The prosecution is expected to open its case on January 18.
Justice Ademola and his wife, Olabowale were arraigned last December 13 before Justice Jude Okeke of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama on an 11-count charge of conspiracy and receipt of gratification. The case has been adjourned to January 18 for the commencement of trial.
Dasuki and others
Former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, is currently facing three charges. In the first case, he is charged with money laundering and illegal possession of firearms. The former NSA was arraigned on the charge before Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja on September 1, 2015.
Proceedings in the case is expected to commence afresh before another judge at the resumption of the Federal High Court this month. This is because Justice Ademola is being tried for alleged corrupt practices.
In another charge, Dasuki was arraigned with ex-Minister of State for Finance, Bashir Yuguda, a former Director of Finance at the office of the NSA, Shuaibu Salisu, a former governor of Sokoto state, Attahiru Bafarawa, his son, Sagir Bafarawa and their company, Dalhatu Investment Limited for allegedly stealing about N9.2billion from the office of the NSA.
Both charges are now pending before Justice Hussein Baba Yusuf of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The prosecution is expected to open its case when proceedings resumes on January 25.
Oronsaye and others
The former Head of Service of the Federation (HOS), Stephen Oransanye is being tried in two separate courts on two charges. He is standing trial alone before Justice Olasumbo Goodlcuk of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). He was arraigned on March 15, 2016.
Oronsaye, who was the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Financial Action Task Force (PCFATF) under President Goodluck Jonathan, is among others charged with criminal breach of trust for allegedly converting about N382.9million belonging to the PCFATF to his personal use while he headed it between 2013 and 2015.
He is expected to open his defence or make a no-case submission when proceedings resume mid-January.
The former spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh is facing trial in two courts. He is being tried with his company, Destra Investments Ltd, before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja on a seven-count charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/05/2016
They were charged with breach of trust, corruption and money laundering, offences contrary to section 15(2)(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended in 2012) and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.
They were arraigned last January 15. He is expected to continue with his defence when proceedings resume before Justice Abang early this year.
Badeh and his predecessor
Former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Alex Badeh is standing trial with a firm, Iyalikam Nigeria Limited on a 10-count charge marked: marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/46/2016, before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja
They are charged with breach of trust and corruption. Badeh was said to have committed the offences while serving as the Chief of Air Staff in 2013.
There is also the case involving Badeh’s predecessor, Air Chief Marshal Mohammed Diko Umar (rtd), who is being tried on a seven-count charge of corruption involving about N7.382billion. It alleged that Umar removed the money from the account of the Nigerian Air Force while he was the Chief of Air Staff.
Former Adamawa State Governor, Murtala Nyako is standing trial with his son, Senator Abdulaziz Nyako, two of his ex-aides, Abubakar Aliyu and Zulkifikk Abba; and five companies – Blue Opal Nigeria Limited, Serore Farms & Extension Limited, Pagoda Fortunes Limited, Towers Assets Management Limited and Crust Energy Limited.
They were arraigned on July 8, 2015 on a 37-count charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/293/2015, before Justice Evoh Chukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on a 37- count charge bordering on criminal conspiracy, stealing, abuse of office and money laundering.
The case has since been reassigned to Justice Okon Abang with the death in mid-2016 of Justice Chukwu. Trial has started before the judge, with the prosecution calling a number of witnesses.
Former Jigawa State Governor, Sule Lamido, is being tried on a 27-count charge of money laundering, abuse of public office and receiving N1.35 billion kick-back from a government contractor. The money was allegedly paid into accounts controlled by the governor and his sons
Trial had progressed before Justice Adeniyi Ademola until the judge’s arrest and consequent prosecution. The case is expected to be assigned to another judge.
The trial of former Plateau State Governor, Joshua Dariye will resume before Justice Olubukola Banjoko of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Gudu this month. He is expected to continue with his defence.
Trial is expected to resume in the case involving former Benue State governor, Gabriel Suswam and the state’s ex-Finance Commissioner, Omodachi Okolobia after some delays. They were arraigned before Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed of Federal High Court, Abuja on November 10, 2015 on charges of money laundering and breach of trust.
Former Governor of Taraba State, Reverend Jolly Nyame is expected to open his defence at the resumption of the court in January. He is being tried before Justice Bukola Banjoko of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Gudu.
Nyame is charged with “criminal breach of trust,” punishable under Section 315 315 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 and “mmisappropriation of public funds,” punishable under Section 309 of the Penal Code.
Trial is expected to commence afresh before a new judge when the Federal High Court resumes business in January in the case involving former Imo State Governor, Ikedi Ohakim.
He is to open his defence before Justice Adeniyi Ademola when the judge was arrested and is currently being prosecuted for corruption related offences.
Ohakim was arraigned on July 8, 2015 on a three-count charge, to which he pleaded not guilty. He is accused of making a cash payment to the tune of $2, 290,000.00 (about N270,000,-000.00) , for the purchase of a property at Plot No. 1098 Cadastral Zone A04, Asokoro District, otherwise known as No.60, Kwame Nkurumah Street, Asokoro, Abuja.
The amount is above the threshold approved for an individual going by the provisions of Section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004.
The EFCC re-arraigned former Abia State Governor Orji Uzor Kalu at the Federal High Court in Lagos along with Udeh Udeogu and Slok Nigeria Limited on 34 counts of diverting N3.2billion Abia funds. They were first re-arraigned on September 27 before Justice Anwuri Chikere of the court’s Abuja division after the case got to the Supreme Court on interlocutory appeal following Kalu’s first arraignment in 2007. Kalu and his co-accused allegedly diverted about N3.2billion from the Abia’s treasury while he was the governor.
The trial will resume on March 6 before Justice Idris.
Eight years after he was first arraigned, former Oyo State Governor Rashidi Ladoja, was re-arraigned at the Federal High Court in Lagos for allegedly converting N4.7billion from the state treasury to his personal use. The EFCC charged him along with Waheed Akanbi before Justice Mohammed Idris on eight counts of money laundering and unlawful conversion of public funds.
Former Minister of Interior, Abba Patrick Moro and others are being tried on an 11-count charge before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Fedeeral High Court, Abuja. They are being prosecuted in respect of the botched March 15, 2014 National Immigration Services (NIS) recruitment exercise, were charged with obtaining money by false pretences, procurement fraud and money laundering.
They are accused of defrauding 675, 675 graduate applicants of about N675,675,000 having been made to pay N1000 each as processing fees for 5,000 (five thousand) job openings.
The prosecution is expected to continue its case when the court resumes in January.
The prosecution is also expected to call more witnesses in the trial of former Defence Minister and Chairman, Board of Trustees, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Haliru Mohamed Bello was arraigned with his son, Abba and a company, Bam Projects and Properties.
They were arraigned on January 5, 2016 on a four-count charge of money laundering before Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Bello, his son and BAM are, in the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/389/2015ý, accused of receiving N300m from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Mohammed Dasuki on March 17, 2015 for political campaign under pretext that it was meant for a housing project named “Safe Houses”.
Wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Dame Patience, has claimed the money in the companies’ accounts is hers. She is praying the court to unfreeze the accounts to enable her have access to her funds. The case comes up before Mohammed Idris on January 18.
In late November, other accounts belonging to her, with about N9billion, were frozen by Justice Mojisola Olatoregun-Ishola. The case is also expected to make headlines this year.
A case that will also attract attention when a date is fixed for hearing is the one filed by the first lady’s supporters against the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) on her alleged $15million.
The suit was filed at the Federal High Court by the Union of Niger Delta Youth Organisation for Equity, Justice and Good Governance, which sued for themselves and on behalf of Mrs Jonathan.
The plaintiffs claimed that the organisation is using online, print and electronic media to publish unfounded and malicious allegations that she allegedly stole $15m (US) and ought to be prosecuted.
SERAP’s suit on budget
The suit filed by SERAP asking the court to compel EFCC to investigate and prosecute the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and others over budget padding, will generate public concern when hearing commences in the matter in the new year.
Trial of former Aviation Minister Chief Femi Fani-Kayode and former Minister of State for Finance Senator Nenadi Usman will resume on January 16 before Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court in Lagos. They were arraigned by the EFCC on a 17-count charge of laundering about N4.6billion. They pleaded not guilty.
Four former Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) workers were charged for corruption-related offences. One of them, Temisan Omatseye, was convicted for contract splitting and is on appeal after being granted a post-conviction bail. His appeal will come up for hearing this year.
The trial of another former NIMASA Director-General Patrick Akpobolokemi, who is facing over five separate fraud and theft charges both at the Federal High Court and Lagos State High court, is expected to be concluded this year.
A former Niger Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo (aka Tompolo) was arraigned in absentia in no fewer than two charges along with Akpobolokemi.
EFCC, on March 22, arraigned Tompolo in absentia over N34billion fraud after he failed to turn up despite being declared wanted. He was said to be “at large”. EFCC, in the 40-count charge before Justice Ibrahim Buba, said they allegedly diverted N34 billion for personal use, adding that the money accrued from the public private partnership agreement between NIMASA and Global West Vessel Specialist, said to be owned by Tompolo. Other charges of stealing, advanced fee fraud and money laundering involving about N22.7billion are still pending against Tompolo before Justice Buba.
The case will come up on Junuary 30 before Justice Buba.
The EFCC arraigned activist-lawyer Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa at the Federal High Court for allegedly dealing in a seized property. The commission said Adegboruwa and Jonathan Udeagbala, said to be at large, allegedly conspired on August 13, 2013 to lease a property at House 105, NICON Town Estate, Lekki, which EFCC said was a “subject of interim orders of attachment made by Justice Christopher Balogun of the Lagos State High Court” on June 18, 2012. But, On September 22, Justice Ayisat Opesanwo of the Lagos State High Court vacated the interim order of forfeiture.
The case is adjourned to January 31.
The EFCC arraigned a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (rtd) on June 29 along with a former Chief of Accounts and Budgeting at the Nigeria Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Jacob Adigun and a former Director of Finance and Budget Air Commodore Olugbenga Gbadebo at the Federal High Court in Lagos. EFCC accused them and some companies of converting N21billion from the Nigeria Air Force on March 5, 2014 in Lagos. They pleaded not guilty. The trial will resume on January 25.
The trial of a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Waripamo Dudafa, will resume before Justice Babs Kuewumi on January 23. He was arraigned at the Federal High Court in Lagos for alleged money laundering. He is facing two separate charges. In the case before Justice Kuewumi, he was arraigned with some companies, which pleaded guilty on September 15 to laundering $15,591,700 (about N5billion).
Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) Managing Director/Chief Executive Ibrahim Abdulsalam was arraigned at the Federal High Court in Lagos on April 7 for allegedly stealing N2.8billion. He was arraigned along with Nnamdi Udoh (said to be at large), Adegorite Olumuyiwa, Agbolade Segun, Clara Aliche, Joy Ayodele Adegorite, Randville Invesment Ltd and Multeng Travels and Tours Ltd on 21-count charge. They pleaded not guilty.
Also in the news was the case by EFCC on how Mrs Aminat Titi Abubakar, wife of former Nigeria’s Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was defrauded of N918 million by some business partners including a former governorship aspirant in Akwa Ibom State, Nsikakabasi Akpan Jacobs before a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja. The EFCC arraigned Jacobs, Abdulmalik Ibrahim and Dana Motors on a 15-count charge of conspiracy, stealing and fraudulent conversion of properties belong to THA Shipping Maritime Services Limited, a firm in which she had vested interest.
The trial of a Lagos socialite and lawyer, Fred Ajudua who allegedly duped former Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-General Ishaya Bamaiyi right inside Kirikiri Prisons made headlines throughout the year and will continue to make headlines next year. Ajudua is scheduled to be re-arraigned for allegedly defrauding General Bamaiyi of $1 million. He is to face a fresh 28-count charge before the court presided by Justice Josephine Oyefeso.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr Rickey Tarfa, was arraigned for alleged obstruction of justice. The EFCC said he prevented the arrest of his clients who are suspects in another matter. He was also accused of bribing a judge, an allegation he denied.
The trial of Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court will resume on January 9. The EFCC accused her of collecting N5million gratification from a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Godwin Obla.
She and Obla were arraigned on a 30-count charge at the Lagos High Court for allegedly conspiring to pervert the course of justice last May 21. EFCC said Obla transferred N5million to Nigel & Colive Ltd, a company the judge is a sole signatory to. The judge and Obla pleaded not guilty.