- Kanu, Orosanye, Kyari, Fayose others cases’ll shape 2023
Being an election year, the judiciary will be busy with lots of pre and post-election cases that would shape the development of law and jurisprudence in the country. Aside the election cases, some politically exposed individuals on trial for alleged graft will also have their days in court in 2023. In this report, TUNDE OYESINA and FRANCIS IWUCHUKWU examine some of these cases
The 2023 general election will come and go. But one thing that would rear its head is the disputes that would emanate therefrom. Some of the results that will be announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), would be refused and will make some contestants head to court either in the councillorship, state assembly, governorship, national assembly and presidential elections.
Interestingly, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, had on November 7, 2022, inaugurated the 307-member elections petition Tribunals. During the inauguration of the Tribunal members at the National Judicial Institute (NJI) in Abuja, the CJN categorically warned judges appointed to resolve disputes from the general election to shun corrupt practices.
The CJN asked the the appointed judges to discharge these onerous responsibilities with honesty, integrity, and transparency and do what is right in the law books, for their names to be etched in gold. “As the Chief Justice of Nigeria, I will not condone any act of recklessness, abuse of power and public trust”, Ariwoola warned.
Even the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Monica Dongban- Mensem, whose court coordinates and serves as the secretariat for election petitions Tribunal across the country also admonished members of the Tribunals not to allow themselves to be used as conduit pipes for evil machinations. “Decisions must be based on your clear understanding of the facts and application of the laws which you swore to uphold upon your appointment (as judges).
“You must resist any form of pressure and influence as well as temptation that may come your way”, Dongban-Mensem said. Meanwhile, the Chairman of INEC, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, has revealed that over 600 cases have been filed against the commission over the primaries of political parties ahead of the 2023 general election.
Suit to compel use of temporary voter’s card in elections This is one of the pre-election matters that will shape the nation’s judiciary in 2023. Already a Federal High Court in Abuja had set January 30, 2023 as the date to deliver judgement in a suit seeking to compel INEC to allow voters with temporary cards participate in the general election.
Meanwhile, the electoral body had explained to the court why it will not allow registered voters that failed to collect their Permanent Voter’s Cards, PVCs, before the deadline to participate in the election. INEC , through its team of lawyers led by Abdulaziz Sani (SAN) maintained that the PVC is critical to its planned accreditation process.
INEC further told the court that unlike in previous elections where it allowed eligible voters that had issues with accreditation to vote after filing the Incident Form, only those with PVCs that were duly authenticated with the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, would be allowed to cast their ballot in the forthcoming elections.
Alleged N2bn fraud suit against Oronsaye
This is another matter that will contribute to the nation’s jurisprudence whichever way it was decided. The Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed April 5, 2023 as the date to deliver judgement in the alleged N2 billion fraud charge filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) against a former Head of Service of the Federation, Stephen Oronsaye. The trial judge, Justice Inyang Eko, fixed the date after parties in the matter adopted their final written addresses. Adopting his address on behalf of the prosecution, Oluwaleke Atolagbe, prayed the court to consider all the evidence the prosecution presented before it. The trial of the former Head of Service has been on for over seven years.
The Federal Government has revealed plans to prosecute fresh Boko Haram suspects that are being held at the military facility in Kainji, Niger State. Making the disclosure, the Solicitor- General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Beatrice Jedy-Agba, maintained that extensive plans and preparations have reached advanced stage for the resumption of the trial of the suspected Boko Haram terrorists.
According to her, the trial which has been done in phases, was halted temporarily to ensure proper investigation of the suspects and to put necessary measures in place to ensure that they were given fair trials that would meet global standards. Jeddy-Agba equally assured of government commitment to ensuring that justice was dispensed to assuage the feelings of victims and survivors of terror attacks and to decongest the detention facilities.
Her words: “The Federal Government is taking steps to reconfigure the military holding facilities to make it adaptable and conducive for recommencement of trials. “We will start the prosecution by the end of the first quarter of 2023. We are in the process of renovating and, in fact, reconstructing facilities such as the courtrooms and residential areas. “It is important to ensure that there are enhanced measures put in place. We are utilising military facilities and therefore, they were not built like proper courts.
“The resort to the use of military facilities is to ensure that trials are conducted in a safe and secure environment. “There are risks associated with moving such a large number of accused persons at the same time for trial. So, this is one critical issue that is of utmost concern. “We have secured all relevant approvals to proceed with the projects, and we are working very closely with the Office of the Chief of Defence Staff and other military authorities to ensure that by the end of the first quarter of 2023, we will start trials”.
Jedy-Agba added that the Federal Ministry of Justice was not only concerned about the pain and plight of victims of terrorism, but also the sensitive issue of the rights of the accused persons. “The whole idea is to ensure that while respecting the rights of the defendants, we also have to consider the sensibilities of Nigerians who have been victims of terrorism, as well as the general security of Nigerians as a whole.
“So, we will, as much as possible, ensure that the minimum human rights requirements are met. We will open the trial venue for observations of select civil society organisations, as well as human rights institutions, like the National Human Rights Commission”, she said.
FG’s appeal against Kanu’s acquittal The appeal filed by the Federal Government at the Supreme Court against the acquittal of leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, over alleged terrorism, is expected to be heard by the apex court this year.
Specifically, the Federal Government, through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), insisted that the IPOB leader was only acquitted but not discharged of the allegations of terrorism and treasonable felony brought against him.
The prosecution further contended that Kanu had earlier demonstrated to be a flight risk when he jumped bail granted him in 2017, adding that it would be in the interest of the South East and Nigeria to hold him pending the decision of the apex court. It would be recalled that the Court of Appeal in Abuja presided over by Justice Oludotun Adefope- Okojie had questioned the Nigerian government’s forcible repatriation of the IPOB leader from Kenya to Nigeria last year June to face terrorism charges over Kanu’s separatist campaigns.
Justice Adefope-Okojie had on October 13, 2022 held that the Federal Government broke local and international laws by forcibly re-arresting and returning Kanu to Nigeria. DCP Kyari’s drug case The trial of a former Deputy Commissioner of Police, Abba Kyari, alongside four police officers: ACP Sunday Ubua, ASP Bawa James, Inspectors Simon Agirgba and John Nuhu, as well as ASP John Umoru, said to be at large, over alleged drug dealing before a Federal High Court in Abuja is expected to continue this year.
While the two civilians, Patrick Umeibe and Emeka Alphonsus, who were indicted alongside the officers have since pleaded guilty and have been jailed for two years each, the police officers’ cases have dragged on. Kyari has since applied to be removed from the correctional centre in Kuje for security reasons and to be discharged from the allegations. Murder trial of ASP Vandi The trial of a suspected killer cop, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Drambi Vandi, has commenced before the High Court of Lagos State in TBS.
But he has since pleaded not guilty before the court presided over by Justice Ibironke Harrison, to the alleged killing of a Lagos-based lawyer, Mrs. Omobolanle Raheem, on Christmas Day.
The policeman denied killing the lawyer following his arraignment by the Lagos State Government on a count charge of murder, contrary to Section 223 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015. With the commencement of Vandy’s trial, a police Inspector, Mathew Ameh, who appeared before the judge as the first prosecution witness, revealed that his team, including the defendant, were deployed to Ajah under the bridge where they were conducting a stop and search.
The witness informed the court that his team tried to stop the deceased car, which is an unregistered vehicle, but the driver didn’t stop and Supol Vandi fired at the car. The matter has since been adjourned to Jan 25 and 26, 2023 for cross-examination of the witness and continuation of trial.
Vandi, an Assistant Superintendent of Police attached to the Ajiwe Police Station in Ajah, Lagos State, currently on suspension by the Police Service Commission (PSC), was alleged to have shot at Bolanle Raheem while she was returning from church with her family at Ajah Road, Lekki Expressway, Lagos. Chidinma Ojukwu’s trial Also expected to continue this year is the trial of an undergraduate of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Chidinma Ojukwu, who allegedly killed the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Super TV, Usifo Ataga.
The undergraduate is currently being tried alongside her sister, Chioma Egbuchu, and one, Adedapo Quadri, over her role in the alleged murder of Ataga. She is also answering questions to the charge of stealing and forgery alongside her sister, Chioma Egbuchu, and Quadri before Justice Yetunde Adesanya of the High Court of Lagos State, TBS.
The defendants were arraigned on October 12, 2021, on a nine-count charge preferred against them by the Lagos State Government. Ojukwu and Quadri are answering questions to the first to eight counts bordering on conspiracy, murder, stabbing, forgery, making of bank statements and stealing, while the third defendant, Egbuchu, is facing the ninth count – stealing of iPhone 7 belonging to the late Ataga. Ojukwu and Quadri were alleged to have conspired and murdered Ataga on June 15, 2021, by stabbing him several times with a knife in the neck and chest. The alleged murder took place at 19, Adewale Oshin Street, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.
The duo were equally alleged to have committed forgery by procuring and making bank account statements purported to have been made by the deceased. Fayose’s alleged N3.3bn fraud trial The trial of a former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, over alleged N3.3 billion fraud at a Federal High Court in Lagos is expected to continue this year.
Fayose’s prosecution started on 22nd October, 2018, when he was docked on an 11-count charge of alleged N3.3 billion fraud by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun. However, following the retirement of Justice Olatoregun from the Bench, the case was re-assigned to Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke where it started afresh.
The former governor was on the 2nd of December, 2021 re-arraigned on an 11-count amended charge before the judge. Further hearing in Fayose’s trial continues on January 31, 2023. In the amended charge, Fayose and Abiodun Agbele, who is also standing trial of alleged money laundering offences before another Division of the court, were alleged to have on June 17, 2014, taken pos-
session of N1.219 billion, to fund Fayose’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign in Ekiti State. They were accused of committing criminal breach of trust, theft and stealing of public funds. They were also alleged to have on June 17, 2014, without going through financial institutions, received the sum of $5 million from Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, who was then Minister of State for Defence.
The EFCC alleged that Fayose on April 7, 2015, retained the sum of N300 million, in his fixed deposit account number 9013074033, domiciled in a bank. Fayose and his company, Spotless Limited were also alleged to have between June 17 and August 4, 2014, taken control of the sum of N317 million, and deposited same in a bank account with number 1010170969. The former governor was also alleged to have between June 26 and August 27, 2014, taken control of the sum of N305 million, which formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act.
He was also accused of procuring Agbele and a company, De-privateer Limited, to retain the sum of N719 million in a bank. The EFCC further accused Fayose of using the sum of N270 million and N1.2 billion respectively, to acquire property at Plot 1504, Yedsema Street, Maitama, Abuja from one, Rabi Kundili, and Chalets 3, 4, 6 and 9, at Plot 100, Tiyamiyu Savage Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, in the name of JJ Technical Services.
Fayose was also alleged to have between October 16 and December 31, 2018, failed to declare his assets and property, by not completing the declaration form during investigation.
The offences were said to have contravened Sections 15(2)(d); 1 and 16 (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended, and punishable under Section 15(3) (4); 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
Fani-Kayode’s alleged N4.6bn fraud trial
The trial of a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode and three others over alleged N4.6 billion is expected to continue this year before Justice Daniel Osiagor of a Federal High Court in Lagos.
Fani-kayode is being prosecuted before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside a former Minister of Finance, Mrs. Nenadi Esther Usman, a former ALGON Chairman Danjuma Yusuf, and a firm, Jointrust Dimentions Nigeria Limited. The prosecution of Fani-Kayode and others had commenced since 2016 before Justice Muslim Hassan.
The judge later recused himself from the case following a petition by Fani-Kayode alleging that he was formerly a legal officer with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The case was subsequently transferred to Justice Rilwan Aikawa. However, midway to the defendants’ trial, Justice Aikawa was transfered out of Lagos to another jurisdisction of the court.
This led to the transfer of the case to Justice Osiagor for the matter to commence afresh. The EFCC in a 17-count charge marked FHC/L/C/251c/2016, alleged that the accused persons had on or before January 2015, unlawfully retained the total sum of N4.6 billion said to be proceeds of unlawful act.
The offences according to the anti-graft agency contravened Sections 1(a), 15(2)(d), 16(d), 18(a), 16(d) 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3), 16(2)(b) and 4 of the same Act.
One of the counts in the charge reads: “That you, NNENADI ESTHER USMAN, FEMI FANI-KAYODE, DANJUMA YUSUF AND JOINTRUST DIMENTIONS NIGERIA LTD on or about the 8th day of January, 2015, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to indirectly retain the sum of N1,500, 000,000.00 (One Billion, Five Hundred Million Naira) which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit: stealing, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) & 4 of the same Act”.
Murder trial of Geng Also expected to make further progress this year is the trial of a Chinese national, Geng Quanrong, accused of killing his girlfriend, Ummukulsum Sani Buhari, in Kano on September 2022 over her alleged refusal to marry him. Geng Quanrong has since been remanded at the Correctional Centre over the incident by a Magistrates’ Court in Kano.