The expected return of Senate President Bukola Saraki to the dock for alleged false asset declaration and the continuation of the trials of former Peoples Democratic Party spokesperson, Olisah Metuh, and the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, are some of the major cases expected in 2018.
Also, the continued detention of former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, as well as the Shiite leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, are among cases that will make the headlines in 2018.
Saraki’s False Asset Charge
On December 12, 2017, an Abuja Division of the Appeal Court ordered the retrial of Mr. Saraki, months after he was declared free of an 18-count charge of false asset declaration against him.
Already, lawyers representing Mr. Saraki, led by a former Attorney General of the Federation, Kanu Agabi, have approached the Supreme Court to appeal the decision of the appellate court.
Mr. Saraki’s battle against his false asset declaration charge dates back to the first time the charge was brought against him by the Code of Conduct Bureau on September16, 2015.
After an initial invitation to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal on September, 18 was declined by Mr. Saraki, the tribunal ordered the arrest of the Senate President by security operatives.
On his part, Mr. Saraki approached the Federal High Court and the Appeal Court in various attempts to stop his appearance at the tribunal.
After failing in the said attempts, Mr. Saraki appeared before the tribunal on September 22 where he pleaded not guilty to a 13-count charge initially brought against him.
On February 5, 2016 however the Supreme Court ordered the continuation of Mr. Saraki’s trial, resulting in his appearance at the court in March, that year.
Mr. Saraki persisted in his resolve to question the legality of his trial. His charges were amended twice taking the number of counts in the charge to 18.
The matter continued amid several other judicial battles by the senate leader against his trial.
In June 2017, the CCT accepted the submission of Mr. Saraki’s lawyers that their client had no case to answer.
A panel of two members, led by the CCT chairman, Danladi Umar, said the failure of the prosecution to present witnesses who were fully part of the alleged offence against the senate president, made their evidence “incurably defective”.
Dissatisfied with the decision of the tribunal, the prosecution appealed its (Tribunal) ruling resulting in the December 12 judgement of the appellate court.
A three-member panel of judges led by Tinuade Akomolafe-Wilson disagreed with the submissions of the CCT chairman.
The appellate court said the prosecution had presented enough evidence to back its claim of alleged false asset declaration, as contained in three of the 18-count charges against Mr. Saraki.
Already the senate president has returned to the Supreme Court to challenge that December 12 Appeal Court ruling. The court is however yet to fix a date for the fresh application.
The dramatic turn of events during the last days of Mr. Metuh’s trial, in 2016 ranks this case among the list of court matters to top the headlines in 2018.
Mr. Metuh’s trial which began in January 2016 was among the fastest moving cases early last year, to have reached its defence stage in less than a year.
Mr. Metuh, a former spokesperson of Nigeria’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party, was arraigned on a seven-count charge of fraud for allegedly receiving N400 million from the office of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
He was charged before a judge, Okon Abang, of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.
He is also facing a separate charge of two-counts at a Federal Capital Territory High Court for allegedly attempting to destroy evidence during his investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The trial at the Abuja Division of the FHC had attracted growing concerns following the controversial relationship between the presiding judge, Mr. Abang, and Mr. Metuh.
The trial became even more frenetic when Mr. Metuh demanded the appearance of the former president, Goodluck Jonathan, and Mr. Dasuki at his trial in October, 2017.
Although Mr. Dasuki has complied with a court summon for his appearance at the trial, Mr. Jonathan has asked the court to compel Mr. Metuh to pay N1 billion to cover the costs of travel and other logistics for the former President and his aides from Mr. Jonathan’s home town, Otuoke in Bayelsa State, to Abuja.
The request made by Mr. Jonathan’s lawyer, Mike Ozekhome, was however stood down pending the service of a subpoena on the former president, by the court bailiff.
Prior to the date of the last sitting on the matter, the bailiff had on December, 5, 2017 informed the court that he was asked to return to Mr. Jonathan’s residence on December 11 to serve him (Jonathan) personally with the subpoena.
The bailiff is expected to brief the court about his visit on the next adjourned date, January 22.
Mr. Kanu was first arraigned in October 2015 at a magistrate court in Abuja for alleged involvement in the maintenance of an unlawful society and other treasonable offences.
His case was later transferred to the Abuja Division of the FHC after the charges against Mr. Kanu were amended to include terrorism related offences.
The charges against Mr. Kanu were amended several times to include other defendants, amid dramatic protests and tight security in court.
In April 2017, the court presided by Binta Nyako granted a bail application to Mr. Kanu on health grounds, with conditions that were regarded too stringent by the first defendant’s lawyer.
Among the conditions given to Mr. Kanu was that he should not be seen in a crowd of more than 10 people or engage in any kind of agitation.
Soon after his release, however, Mr. Kanu was seen in You-Tube videos asking Nigerians from the South-east to observe a sit-at-home order on May 30. The order given by the IPOB leader was to mark the anniversary of the initial declaration of the state of Biafra by former secessionist, Emeka Ojukwu, in 1967.
That order was widely complied with in the region.
Also protests by IPOB members grew beyond the venue of Mr. Kanu’s court case, creating a tensed atmosphere in the South-east and other parts of the country.
In a reaction to the security situation caused by the menace, the federal government outlawed the IPOB group and designated it a terror organisation.
On September 14, Mr. Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, accused security operatives of kidnapping his client.
Mr. Kanu’s disappearance triggered even further controversies causing Mrs. Nyako to order the appearance of Mr. Kanu’s sureties in court.
The sureties are yet to attend the trial.
During the last adjourned date on December, 5, the case was rescheduled to February 20.
As already being witnessed, the refusal of the government to obey a court ruling ordering the release of Shiite leader, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, is yet another matter that promises to make the headlines in 2018.
Mr. El-Zakzaky was arrested in December 2015 after a clash ensued between Shiite members and the Nigerian Army over right of way.
Mr. El-Zakzaky and his wife have since remained in the custody of Nigeria’s security operatives, despite a court order for their release in December 2016.
A judge, Gabriel Kolawole while delivering a judgement on an application by the Shiite members berated the federal government for detaining Mr. El-Zakzaky and his wife for over a year without trial. The judge ordered their release within 45 days from December 2, 2016, the date the judgement was delivered.
Dissatisfied with the order, the federal government filed an appeal over two weeks after the deadline given by the court, in February, 2017.
Ten months after that appeal was filed however, the case is yet to experience its first hearing at the appellate court.
Numerous protests by Shiite members have occurred since Mr. El-Zakzaky’s arrest. The police arrested 52 of them on January 10 after one of these.
Mr. Dasuki’s trial and continued detention is another issue to contend with in 2018.
The Supreme Court will entertain arguments regarding the continued detention of Mr. Dasuki paving a new round of discussions on the matter.
Mr. Dasuki has been in detention since he was arrested by security operatives in 2015.
He is facing multiple trials for alleged diversion of $2.1 billion from the office of the NSA.
The former NSA has secured various court orders for his release which were not obeyed by the federal government.
The Nigerian government also secured an order, allowing it to continue detaining the former NSA in 2016.
In June, 2016, the Appeal Court dismissed an application by Mr. Dasuki challenging his detention.
Subsequent upon that decision, Mr. Dasuki’s lawyer Ahmed Raji approached the Supreme Court for a review of the Appeal Court’s decision.
The Supreme Court has slated January 25 to entertain arguments on the matter.