Except for a few individuals, high profile corruption cases in Nigeria hardly come to a conclusion. Sometimes they are out rightly struck out or linger inconclusively.
This reality makes the recent argument between President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, on who should be blamed for why high profile cases involving very influential Nigerians hardly come to conclusion interesting.
President Buhari had claimed the judiciary is to be blamed. He said the delay tactics adopted by judicial officers and lawyers stall progress in the dispensation of justice, especially in trials of corruption suspects, adding that such situations usually left negative impressions that crimes were a venture worth taking.
‘’I am worried that the expectation of the public is yet to be met by the judiciary, with regard to the removal of delay and the toleration of delay tactics by lawyers. When cases are not concluded, the negative impression is given that crime pays,” he said at a recent gathering of lawyers.
Mahmud did not buy his argument. For the CJN, the reason is the lack of will by the executive arm of government to prosecute such cases. He however said that now that there is an executive with the will, that the issue of cases lingering forever will be a thing of the past in Nigeria.
Said he, “I must emphasise that the fact that these cases still remain on our case list was because of lack of will on the part of government to have these cases prosecuted, but now that there is a government with a will, the cases will no longer be delayed.”
But until then, Nigerians have been made to live with disappointment over several cases of alleged corrupt person(s) hiding under court injunctions to buy time and frustrate the wheel of Justice. Many instances abound.
In the case of former Abia state governor, Orji Uzo Kalu, he was docked before Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on July 27, 2007, for eight years, his legal team applied various interlocutory applications, to frustrate moves by the prosecution to open its case against him.
It took the Supreme Court judgment of Friday March 18, 2016 to allow EFCC to prosecute the former governor on a 107-count corruption charge bordering on the alleged illegal diversion of public funds to the tune of N5.6 billion between 1999 and 2007.
His counterpart, Joshua Dariye who was governor of Plateau state from 1999 was arrested in London, England on January 20, 2004, and was accused of stealing about $9m of public funds and of money laundering. He was not arrested and prosecuted until 2007 when his tenure as governor expired. The EFCC preferred a 23-count charge of money laundering involving alleged diversion of about N1.126bn ecological funds. That case has lingered in court till date.
Also frustrating is the case of Chimaroke Nnamani, who governed Enugu state between 1999 and 2007 and has been in court on a 105-count charge of money laundering since 2007. His case has gone from Justice Abubakar Tijani to Justice Charles Archibong (rtd) and to Justice Mohammed Yunusa, recently retired, and yet has continued without finality.
Senator Nnamani is charged alongside Sunday Anyaogu; Rainbownet (Nig) Ltd; Hillgate (Nig) Ltd; Cosmos FM; Capital City Automobile (Nig) Ltd; Renaissance University Teaching Hospital; and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School.
Embattled factional national chairman of the PDP, and former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff has also been mentioned in corruption allegations.
He has also been fingered as being a major factor in the emergence of the Boko Haram terrorist group that has wrecked havoc on the nation, and led to the loss of thousands of lives and destruction of property worth billions of naira.
He was recently sighted at the Maiduguri office of the EFCC. Though reports claimed he was invited in connection to claims of Borno funds misappropriated during his watch as two term governor, his spokesman, Inuwa Bwala, said he only went there to clear his name in connection to campaign funds relating to the 2015 elections.
Other state governors whose cases have continued unresolved for a long time in court include, Saminu Turaki, Jigawa; Danjuma Goje, Gombe; Aliyu Akwe Doma, Nasarrawa and Jolly Nyame, Taraba.
It is important also to note the much recent ones involving the former governors of Adamawa, Imo and Jigawa states, Murtala Nyako, Ikedi Ohakim and Sule Lamido respectively. They were accused of money laundering, embezzlement and misappropriation of funds running into billions of naira.
Ikedi Ohakim, and Murtala Nyako and his son, Abdul-aziz, who is a senator now, were arraigned at a Federal High Court in Abuja on different cases of alleged corruption.
Court granted Ohakim bail in the sum of N270m for N270m fraud allegedly perpetrated in 2008, Murtala Nyako and his son, Abdulaziz, also got bail of N350m on a 37-count charge bordering on criminal conspiracy, stealing, abuse of office and money laundering.
Lamido and two sons, Aminu and Mustapha, who were initially denied bail and remanded in Kano prison, are facing a 24-count charge bordering on money laundering and related offences.
There is also the case involving the business mogul, Femi Otedola and Faruk Lawal among others.
All of these cases are still lingering in court.
With the recent statement by the CJN, the question now is, will this lingering court cases involving former governors and other prominent Nigerians finally come to a conclusion.
One thing that has been so pronounced in the present administration is its fight against corruption, even though many continue to accuse President Buhari of fighting a lopsided war against corruption, concentrating mainly on perceived enemies of his All Progressives Congress (APC) party and the major opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
While it must be said that the EFCC searchlight is now beaming radically on suspected corrupt people and throwing up court cases almost forgotten, how soon these cases will come to conclusion and those found guilty sentenced to jail remain a great concern to many Nigerians.
How Buhari’s determination matches the commitment of the judiciary to do what is right in the case of very influential Nigerians will dim or restore the belief that there is hope for the common man.
Ebere Ndukwu …
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