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How ‘Trial Fever’ grips public officials

Olisa Metuh

The possibility of excessive worry and other health-related anxiety has been the lot of public servants who suddenly became sick during corruption trial.

Today it is no longer strange that high-profile public officials take ill as soon as they are charged with corruption, especially with the anti-corruption campaign of President Muhammadu Buhari and the fear of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

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Even some senior lawyers now hide under their beds as a result of the dreaded anti-graft agencies. In fact, virtually all public servants facing trial on one occasion or the other have their trial stalled due to alleged ill-health. Some of the cases where the “ill-health” of the defendants has stalled the trial include:

Onnoghen

The trial of the retired Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, was stalled at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, owing to his ill-health. Justice Walter Onnoghen’s lead counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo, explained to the tribunal that his absence was occasioned by a tooth-ache and high blood pressure which was said to be around 210/121.

He tendered a medical report from medical centre in Abuja where the defendant was said to have been treated. The medical report signed by one Dr Francis Uche, the Medical Director of the hospital recommended among others that Justice Onnoghen must observe 72 hours bed rest for his blood pressure to be properly monitored. Onnoghen was eventually convicted for non-disclosure of his assets.

Femi Fani-Kayode

Former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode once failed to appear in court for his corruption trial because, according to Norrison Quakers (SAN), his counsel, he had been diagnosed and hospitalized with a heart-related ailment.

Norrison pleaded with Justice Rilwan Aikawa to adjourn the hearing to enable him furnish the court with medical records proving Fani-Kayode’s illness.

Diezani Alison-Madueke

Former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who is facing multiple corruption cases valued at up to $6bn is alleged to be in and out hospital in the United Kingdom receiving treatment for cancer-related ailments.

Olisa Metuh

The former Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is facing criminal trial before the Federal High Court, Abuja, for allegedly receiving N400 million from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) popularly known as “Armsgate trial”.

In May 2016 Justice Okon Abang refused to grant Metuh leave to travel abroad for medical treatment, and later threatened to revoke Metuh’s bail if he continues to jump bail on the excuse of ill-health.

“This court shall henceforth not accept any other medical report issued by any medical doctor in Nigeria until the trial is concluded,” Abang ruled.

Metuh’s ‘ill-health’ assumed dramatic dimensions when he slumped in court in May 2018, he was rushed to the National Hospital in an ambulance by the court’s medical team. Subsequently, he continued to appear in court either on a wheelchair or crutches.

Nenadi Usman

The former Minister of Finance, Nenadi Usman is standing a joint trial alongside Fani-Kayode for allegedly embezzling N4.6 billion. Usman applied for leave to travel to the United States of America to receive treatment for cancer.

Her prayer was granted by Justice Rilwan Aikawa on December 5, 2017, who ordered the court’s registrar to release Usman’s passport.

Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia

The EFCC charged former judge, Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia and Godwin Obla (SAN) with 18-counts allegations bordering on conspiracy, unlawful enrichment, retention of crime proceeds and money laundering.

During one of her trials, she collapsed before a Federal High Court in Lagos State. At another time, she appeared with a broken leg.

Bello Haliru

The EFCC arraigned former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic

Party (PDP), Haliru Bello and his son, Mohammed over an alleged fraud before a Federal High Court in Abuja over alleged N300m fraud with the former NSA, Sambo Dasuki.

Haliru was arraigned on a wheelchair. And in the course of trial, he has applied for medical treatment overseas, which have stalled the speedy conclusion of the case.

Jolly Nyame

The former Taraba State governor, Jolly Nyame was tried and convicted by Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the FCT High Court in Gudu.

His trial was also stalled due to reported ill-health on his part before his eventual conviction.

The EFCC docked Nyame for allegedly misappropriating N1.64 billion state funds during his tenure as the governor from 1999 to 2007. He was convicted May 2018 and sentenced to 14 years in prison. He was asked to refund the monies he diverted.

Dino Melaye

Senator Dino Melaye has been arraigned with charges bordering on attempted culpable homicide, obstruction, and gun-running. But in the course of his travail in the hands of security agencies, Melaye was seen hospitalized for different ailments. In a dramatic show, Melaye was put on a neck bandage after he allegedly broke his neck.

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