| By Ishaya Ibrahim |
THE year 2012 was eventful for the Nigerian judiciary. With an avalanche of cases against high profile politicians, especially past governors, the year ended with almost no conviction of the politicians whose cases have been lying in the courts since 2007. But it took a London court in April to convict one of them, James Ibori, former governor of Delta State, for his part in a $250 million rape of the state’s funds. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison but would spend four and half years behind bars. The Scotland Yard, which investigated the fraud, said that during Ibori’s two terms as governor, he systematically stole funds from the public purse and stashed them in bank accounts abroad.
At the home front, the year witnessed the arraignment of many marketers who were accused of fraudulently ripping off of several billions of naira through payments of fuel subsidy on petroleum products. Two sons of the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP, chiefs were among the accused. They were Mahmud Tukur, son of PDP national chairman, Bamanga Tukur; Nasamu Ali, son of the party’s former national chairman, Ahmadu Ali, and others. They were arraigned at a Lagos High Court, Ikeja division. The suspects are part of a group of 20 persons who allegedly defrauded the treasury of N13 billion.
But as Nigerians were expecting an epic trial of these alleged thieves, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, dashed their expectations. The Commission opted for an out of court settlement with some of the marketers, including Tukur and Ali.
Also this year, Wale Babalakin, senior advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and chairman of Bi-Courtney Highway Services Limited, was also dragged before an Ikeja high court, to answer a 27-count charge preferred against him by the EFCC on money laundering. He is accused of using his company to launder millions of Naira for Ibori.
The year also witnessed the emergence of women at the top echelon of the nation’s judiciary. First, it was Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, who made history as the first woman Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN. She was appointed into that position as the highest judicial officer in Nigeria in July 2012. Another female legal luminary, Zainab Bulkachuwa, was also appointed the acting president of the court of appeal and sworn-in on November 23. She succeeded Justice Dalhatu Adamu.
On January 30, a Lagos High Court sentenced Hamza Al-Mustapha, former chief security officer, CSO, to the late General Sani Abacha, to death by hanging. The verdict of the 14-year long trial of Al-Mustapha, could not have been more shocking to his friends and family members. On January 30, a number of them had trooped to the Lagos State High Court at Igbosere, to celebrate what they thought would be the end of his long detention at the Kirikiri Maximum Prison. But as it turned out, Justice Mojisola Dada, ruled otherwise. She convicted and sentenced the former CSO and Lateef Shofolahan, his accomplice, to death by hanging for the murder of Kudirat Abiola, wife of the late Mooshood Abiola, a business mogul and winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election.
Before the conviction, Al-Mustapha had been standing trial for the murder of Kudirat since October 1999. He was initially arraigned along with four suspects. The suspects were Shofolahan, Rabo Lawal, Aminu Lawal and Mohammed Abacha. After many rounds of legal battle and power play, the other accused persons managed to extricate themselves from the charge, leaving Al-Mustapha and Shofolahan in the case.
Al-Mustapha was also arraigned in another court over the attempted murder of Alex Ibru, publisher of The Guardian newspapers, and the burning of Rutam House. After many years of legal battle, the former CSO won the case both at the High Court and Appeal Court. But the case of Kudirat remained his albatross.
Al-Mustapha has, however, appealed against his conviction. The hearing on the appeal is yet to begin.
— Jan. 7, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT