Friday, January 1, 2021 10:53 am
By Akin Kuponiyi
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic that ravaged the world, including Nigeria, many cases, especially the high profile ones were stalled due to the lockdown. As the nation was coming out of the that, the courts went on vacation for about three months
When the they resumed, the EndSARS protests nation wide badly affected the courts,as the those at Igbosere in Lagos, south west Nigeria were set ablaze and burnt down. All these happenings put together slowed down judicial processes and in some cases grinding it to a halt.
Nevertheless, the following notable cases were heard during the year 2020.
COURT DISMISSES MOMPHA’S NO CASE SUBMISSION
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, dismissed a ‘no case submission’ filed by internet celebrity, Ismaila Mustapha, alias Mompha, saying he has case to answer.
Mompha was arraigned alongside a company called Ismalob Global Investment Ltd by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 22 counts charge bordering on fraud, money laundering, running a foreign exchange business without the authorisation of the Central Bank of Nigeria and declaration of false audit report
In his ruling on ‘no case submission filed by his lawyer, the presiding Judge Mohammed Liman while dismissing the application declared that from the evidence aduce before the court by the prosecution witnesses on various counts of the charge, a prima facie case has been established by the prosecution against the defendants,therefore the defendant has explanations to make on issues of retention of funds in Islamob account, money laundering, dealing in foreign exchange without authorization from the Central Bank of Nigeria and declaration of false audit report.
EFCC had accused the defendant of procuring Ismalob Global Investment Ltd company and retaining in iits account, an aggregate sum of N32,9billion between 2015 and 2018
Justice Liman adjourned till March 10,,2021for defendant to open his defence.
COURT DICHARGES ATIKU’S SON-IN-LAW OF MONEY LAUNDERING CHARGE
Abdullahi Babalele, a son-in-law to the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar was discharged of two-count charge allegation of laundering of $140,000
The presiding Judge Chukwujekwu Aneke struck out the charge filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the ground of lack of jurisdiction.
Justice Aneke declared that the charge against the defendant ought not to have beeen filed in Lagos when the alleged offence was said to have been committed in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
Based on the Supreme Court decision in a case between the EFCC and Mohammed Dele Belgore on territorial jurisdiction, Babalele was arraigned sometimes in 2018 and then re-arraigned on October 8, 2019.
The EFFC accused Babalele of giving former President Olusegun Obasanjo $140,000 on the instruction of Abubakar, who was vying for the office of president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2019 general election.
He pleaded not guilty to the charge. Trial commenced and the prosecution called two witnesses and tendered several documents that were admitted in evidence, before closing its case against the defendant on November 25, 2020.
However, on 7 December, 2020 Babalele’s counsel, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, filed a no-case submission praying the court to dismiss the charge. The court upheld his no case submission’.
TWO LAWYERS ARRAIGNED FOR RIGGING NBA ELECTION
The trial of two legal practitioners, Sarah Ajibola and John Demide, alleged to have rigged the August 2018 Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) national elections will comence on April 14,2021
Economic and Financial crime commission alleged that Ajibola, and Demide manipulated the election in favour of Mr Paul Usoro SAN, who was elected 29th NBA President in 2018.
Mr Usoro polled 4,509 votes to defeat his other contenders, Okafor Obi, and Ernest Ojukwu, who got 4,423 as well as 3,313 votes in the election.
The two lawyers were alleged to have conspired together and altered personal details including email addresses and phone numbers of about 1004 eligible voters for the elections, with the intention that such inauthentic data will be acted upon as genuine during the said election
The two lawyers were alleged to have used a smoke model on IP address 126.96.36.199 to commit the electoral fraud. nThey pleaded not guilty to the charge.
They are currently on bail
N156.4MILLION FRAUD EFCC RE-ARRAIGNS EX-NIMASA BOSS
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission re-arraigned former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, Haruna Jauro, for alleged stealing and laundering of N156.4million
Re-arraigned alongside the former DG are Dr Dauda Bawa and Thlumbau Enterprises Limited, on 19 counts charge before a federal high court sitting in Lagos south west Nigeria.
The case is starting afresh before a new Judge,Justice Chuka Obiozor. That was after it had reached the stage of final written addresses, a step away from judgment, before Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, who retired in November last year.
In the charges filed before the court,by the EFCC, it was alleged that the defendants in January 2014 converted N156.4million belonging to NIMASA to their own in contravention of Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2012 and are liable to punishment under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
They, pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them.
The presiding Judge Professor Chuka Obiozor i adjourned till March 17, 2021 for trial to commence.
COURT DECLINES TO COMPEL FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TO PAY EX-CJN N130MILLION
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja the Federal capital of Nigeria dismissed a suit seeking N130million as compensation from the Federal Government and Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) for violation of the rights of ex-Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) Walter Onnoghen.
The presiding Judge Justice Taiwo Taiwo declared among others that the applicant, DR. N.S Nwawka, filed the suit without Justice Onnoghen’s permission, thus he had no locus standi to do so.
In his October 12 ruling, the judge stated that : “I have looked at the originating processes filed by the applicant herein, with due respect to him, I do not see any nexus between him and the respondents jointly or severally.
“I do not see his remote or immediate interest in the matter in which he has not been instructed to file by the former Chief Justice of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I pose a question to him and this is whether the Former CJN has told him that he is incapable of fighting his own battle or that he is even ready for any battle against anybody?”
Justice Taiwo also declined to grant Nwawka leave to apply for a referral of some “constitutional questions to the Court of Appeal” for determination.
Consequently he declared that: “The applicant’s motion is incompetent and Itherefore dismiss same.
Nwawka, who appeared in person, brought the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/16/2020 on January 7, 2020
At the hearing of the substantive case on July 15,2020 he averred that sometime in 2019, Immigration officers stationed at the international airport prevented the former CJN from travelling to Ghana and confiscated his international passport without any prior order of the court.
COURT ADJOURNS TILL 3 FEBRUARY,2021FOR RE-TRIAL OF IKUFORIJI AND HIS AIDE TO CONTINUE
The re- trial of the former Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly Adeyemi Ikuforiji,and his aide Oyebode Atoyebi charged with 54 counts of laundering N338.8 million has commenced at the Federal high court in Lagos south west Nigeria.
The former Speaker and his aide are currently on bail.
The former Speaker and his aide were first arraigned on March 1, 2012 before Justice Okechukwu Okeke on a 20-count charge bordering on misappropriation funds and money laundering.
They pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bails.
The defendants were, however, subsequently re-arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba, following a re-assignment of the case.
On Sept. 26, 2014, Justice Buba discharged Ikuforiji and his aide of the charges, after upholding a no case submission of the defendants.
Dissatisfied with the ruling, the EFCC filed an appeal to challenge the decision of the trial court
In its judgement, the Lagos Division of the Appeal Court, in November 2016, agreed with the prosecution and ordered a re- trial of the defendants before another judge.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the Appeal Court, the defendants appealed to the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the judgement of the Appellate court.
Again, in its verdict, the apex court also upheld the decision of the appellate court and ordered that the case be sent back to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment to another judge, for a re-trial.
According to the charge, EFCC alleged that the defendants accepted cash payments above the threshold set by the Money Laundering Act, without going through a financial institution.
The commission accused the defendants of conspiring to commit an illegal act of accepting cash payments in the aggregate sum of N338.8 million from the House of Assembly without going through a financial institution.
COURT GRANTS FAYOSE PERMISSION TO TRAVEL ABROAD FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT
The former Governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, who is standing trial for alleged laundering of N2.2 billion has been granted permission to travel abroad for medical treatment.
The presiding judge Chukwjekwu. Aneke granted the order following an application filed before the court by Fayose’s lawyer, Ola Olanipekun (SAN).
The EFCC prosecutor Rotimi Jacobs (SAN).did not oppose the request,thereafter,Justice Aneke adjourned till January 22, 2021for continuation of trial
Fayose is standing trial alongside a company called Spotless Investment Limited, for alleged laundering of N2.2billion
In the charges, filed against the former Governor of Ekiti State, by the anti graft agency,the EFCC alleged, among other things, that Fayose, on June 17, 2014, “took possession of the sum of N1, 219, 000,000 to fund his 2014 gubernatorial campaign in Ekiti State, which he reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: criminal breach of trust/stealing.”
The ex-governor was also alleged to have on the same day “received a cash payment of $5,000,000 from Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, the then Minister of State for Defence, which sum exceded the amount authorised by law and he thereby committed an offence contrary to sections 1 and 16(d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 16 (2)(b) of the same Act.”
The EFCC also alleged that Fayose purchased a property known as No.44, Osun Crescent, Maitama, Abuja for N200million in the name of “his elder sister, Mrs Moji Oladeji.”
Fayose and Spotless Investment Limited who pleaded not guilty to the charge are currently on bail.
APPEAL COURT PRESIDENT JUSTICE BULKACHUWA BOWS OUT OF BENCH
The President of Court of Appeal, Honourable Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa OFR. CFR, was on March 6, 2020 bow out of the Bench as she clocks the statutory mandatory retirement age of 70 years for Justices of Appeal Court.
Born on March 6, 1950, Honourable Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, an indigene of Nafada Local Government Area of Gombe State, was born to the family of Alhaji Abubakar Gidado EL-Nafaty in Bauchi, Bauchi State.
She had her Primary Education at Tudun Wada Primary School, Kaduna in 1957 before moving to Senior Primary School, Maiduguri Road, Kaduna in 1961, where she obtained her First School Leaving Certificate in 1963. Thereafter, she enrolled at Queen Elizabeth School, Ilorin where she got her West African School Certificate (WASC) in 1968.
Honourable Justice Bulkachuwa proceeded to Abdullahi Bayero College/Ahmadu Bello University Kano between 1971 and 1972 for her GCE ‘A’ Levels and in 1975 she obtained her LL.B (Hons) from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. Between 1975 and 1976 she attended the Nigerian Law School.
The retiring Court of Appeal president started her working career as a National Youth Service Corp member on primary assignment at the Ministry of Justice, Kaduna in 1976. She rose through the cadre to become a Chief Magistrate from 1985 to 1987. Her commitment to service led to her appointment as a High Court Judge in 1987.
At the creation of Gombe State she was deployed and sworn in as the Chief Judge of Gombe State Judiciary in 1997. In 1998 she was appointed as Justice, Court of Appeal (JCA) and on April 17, 2014, former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan approved her appointment as Honourable Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa as The President, Court of Appeal.
She was sworn in by Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and first female CJN.
She has received a substantial number of awards, notable among which are two National Awards; OFR and CFR in 2008 and 2014 respectively. She is a member of numerous professional bodies and has served on various Judicial Committees. She has also attended workshops and seminars in Nigeria and overseas.
LAGOS JUDICIARY HOLDS VIRTUAL COURT SITTING, SENTENCES DRIVER TO DEATH
An Ikeja High Court in Lagos on May 11,2020 sentenced a driver, Olalekan Hameed, to death by hanging for the murder of Mrs Jolasun Okunsanya, 76, the mother of his employer, on 1st of December 12,018.
The presiding Judge Mojisola Dada delivered the judgment in the Lagos State Judiciary’s maiden virtual court session.
The proceedings were approved by Chief Judge, Justice Kazeem Alogba, in line with the Lagos State Judiciary Remote Hearing of Cases COVID-19 Pandemic Period Practice Direction.
The court session for the charge marked ID/9006C/2019, held online via a video application Zoom.
It began at 11am and ended before 2pm.
The judge, defendant his team of counsel, the prosecution team led by Lagos State Solicitor-General Ms Titilayo Shitta-Bey and all witnesses participated in the session remotely from different locations via the Zoom application.
Hameed was arraigned on March 6, 2019 on a two-count charge of murder and stealing
The court heard that he committed the offence at about 12:30pm at plot 83, Owukori Crescent, Alaka Estate, Surulere, Lagos.
He pleaded not guilty, following which his trial commenced.
The prosecution called several witnesses and tendered exhibits including the coroner’s report, stolen N97,500 and $117 recovered from the defendant and a confessional statement, among others.
“The only money I took was the N1,000, any other money I don’t know about it. I did not kill Mrs Jolaso Ogunsanya,” Hakeem told the judge in his defence during the trial.
HoweverJustice Dada noted that prosecution witnesses testimonies that Hakeem was the only one with the deceased at the time of her death and he was also seen scaling the fence of the deceased’s building afterwards, among others, were not disproved.
She said: “It is also an established fact that although the defendant went to the house of the crime to steal, the surprise of the deceased stumbling upon him led him to not just pushing the deceased, but actually strangulating her in a bid to keep her from crying out.
“The case is clear… I have not found any contradiction with the evidence of the prosecution witness that can be deemed material or weighty enough to cast any doubt on the case of the prosecution against the defendant in this case… The facts of the case are incompatible with the innocence of the defendant but rather his guilt on the two counts.
“… the defendant is hereby found guilty of this count two of murder and is hereby convicted as charged and accordingly sentenced to death.
“The sentence of this court upon you, Olalekan Hameed, is that you be hanged by the neck until you are pronounced dead and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul. This is the virtual judgment of the court..”
Top members of the Judiciary and Ministry of Justice also participated in the proceedings virtually.
Justice Dada conducted the proceedings from High Court 10 in Ikeja, the defendant Hameed was at Kirikiri Maximum Correctional Centre, Apapa while the counsel were at different locations.
Prison officials and select members of the press, also participated remotely.
Judicial Officers including Justice Alogba, Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye, Justice Josephine Oyefeso, Justice Sherifat Solebo, Justice Afeez Dabiri, Justice Roli Harriman, amongst others, also participated.
Participants from the bar included the State’s Attorney-General & Minister of Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo (SAN), the prosecutor, Ms Titilayo Shitta-Bey, and some senior lawyers like Funke Adekoya SAN, Tayo Oyetibo SAN, Olukayode Enitan SAN, amongst others.
The court virtual sitting was first ever of its kind in Lagos judiciary,