The former governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, and his son, Abdul-aziz, are currently facing trial at a Federal High Court in Abuja for different cases of alleged corruption.
The Nyakos and others are standing trial in a 37-count charge bordering on criminal conspiracy, stealing, abuse of office and money laundering to the tune of N29 billion preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as they are alleged to have at various times between 2011 and 2013, used five companies – Blue Opal Nigeria limited, Sebore Farms & Extension Limited, Pagoda Fortunes Limited, Towers Assets Management Limited and Crust Energy Limited to commit the alleged fraud.
As their trial continued, former acting governor of Adamawa State, Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri was also arraigned before an Abuja High Court on similar but different charges.
Mr. Fintiri was last month arraigned by the EFCC on a five-count charge bordering on money laundering.
He was said to have defrauded the Adamawa government to the tune of N970 million and 4.8 million dollars when he was the governor of the state for three months.
As is to be expected, each of the cases has been unique in hearing and other processes that will lead to the determination of the case.
In the case involving Abdulaziz Nyako, the court last month, ordered the EFCC to pay the sum of N12.5 million being exemplary damages in favour of the senator for unlawful freezing of his account and illegal detention.
This is because the judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, held while delivering judgment in the fundamental rights enforcement suit, that Senator Nyako, was detained in the custody of the commission in excess of the period prescribed by law.
The court in the same judgment also held that declaring the younger Nyako ‘wanted’ without evidence of crime is tantamount to a breach of his fundamental human rights by the EFCC.
Justice Evoh Chukwu of the Federal High Court Abuja in a similar vein blamed the EFCC for delaying judgment on former governor Nyako’s case.
This was after the counsel to Nyako, Yakubu Maikyau said they needed to study a document tendered by the EFCC counsel because it was voluminous before going on with the cross-examination which justice Chukwu sustained explaining that the document should have been served to Nyako’s counsel, Maikyau long before now, adding that the fresh document amounts to delay of judgment.
But before the conclusion of the case, Justice Chukwu who was handling the trial of the former Adamawa State governor and his two children as well as other major cases like the trial of former officials of the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF), Sani Lulu, Taiwo Ogunjobi and others died.
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, then re-assigned the case to Justice Okon Abang following the death of Chukwu in June.
The case was initially scheduled to commence afresh by way of re-arraignment on July 7. However, the court could not sit due to the extension of the Eid-el-Fitri holiday announced by the Federal Government on July 5, further delaying the case as the EFCC will now have to re-arraign the former governor and his son before Justice Okon Abang on September 12, 2016.
Even as the matter has dragged due to no fault of the accused persons, it is pertinent to point out that the delay in dispensing with the case, which the late judge complained about is set to further aggravate with the processes, as the new judge handling the case needs time to appraise himself with the facts of the matter.
But of serious concern is another coincidence, having to do with the fact that the wife of the former governor, who is a step mother to the other accused person, who are both being arraigned, is also a judge in a federal High Court in Abuja.
Previous cases that are similar in nature have raised concerns in the past and it will not be out of place to ask certain questions if only to ensure a fulfillment of a vital requirement in the dispensation of justice, which is seeing that justice is not only done but seemed to be done.
Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the last governorship election in Rivers State, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, not long ago raised an issue out of a similar coincidence when the wife of a former governor of the state, Justice Mary Odili, who is believed to be close to Governor Nyesom Wike, a party in a matter that went to the Supreme Court, was serving as a judge when the apex court delivered its judgment.
Peterside said “credible information” confirmed that Wike had met with the Supreme Court justices that sat on the matter at different places before the judgment was delivered stressing that Wike himself confirmed during his thanksgiving service that former governor of the state, Dr. Peter Odili, and his wife, Mary (a justice of the Supreme Court), were his advisers.
He said, “Despite my acceptance and temperate public comments on the verdict of the Supreme Court on January 27, 2016, Wike, by his unguarded utterance last Sunday, seems to give credence to the pervading doubt being expressed on the judgment in public space especially in the media”.
“For the record, in his speech at the church service, Wike probably forgot that he was on live telecast when he stated: ‘Let me thank our former governor, Dr. Peter Odili (husband of Supreme Court Justice, Mary Odili). He will call me midnight to tell me what to do….he will say go so so place.” I took all his advice, and here we are today.”
Though Wike reacted by saying Peterside was crying wolf and trying to incite President Muhammadu Buhari and the military against the governor and the people of the state, the point made by Peterside cannot be waved aside.
Parties usually feel uncomfortable if they notice any development that would erode their confidence in the impartiality of the courts and the court, when such issues are raised usually obliges in order to give a sense of justice to all.
It is to avoid such accusations and doubts in the judicial system that it becomes imperative to point out that having both Nyako and his son, tried before an Abuja Federal High Court when a member of their family is a judge within the same precinct should call for concern.
Not only that, but there is also the need to draw attention to the case of the former acting governor, Fintiri, coming in an Abuja Federal High Court for the same reason.
Fintiri it was who played a major role as speaker of the Adamawa State House of Assembly that led to the impeachment of Nyako in 2014.
If the coincidence in the case of Nyako and his son can be ignored on the basis that the facts of the case would speak for itself, that of Fintiri should bother any unbiased mind due to the no love lost relationship between him and members of the Nyako family.
|It would therefore not be out of place to allay the fears of those who for good reasons harbor such concerns in order to deepen the faith of the citizenry in the judiciary.|