As Nigerians await full resumption of Nigerian courts on January 9, a number of cases top the wish list. These cases, because of the personalities involved, previous judgments given, and controversies trailing them can be considered the most high profile cases.
The Federal High Court is expected to decide on a course of action against Nigeria’s government, should it fail to comply with the court’s order for the release of the leader of the Shiite Islamic Movement, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky.
The Abuja division of the court on December 2, 2016 ordered that the government should within 45 days set free Mr. El-Zakzaky and members of his family being held by the authorities since the bloody clash of members of the Islamic sect with the Nigerian Army in December 2015.
The order by Justice Gabriel Kolawole was sequel to an application filed by the detainee for the enforcement of his fundamental rights.
The judge, while delivering judgement on the matter, said government should release the applicant and his family members to the police, who shall within 24 hours escort them to a safe place.
Mr. Kolawole said failure to comply with the order would attract a fresh course of action by the court against the respondents.
He further ruled that the respondents; the State Security Service, Inspector-General of Police and the Attorney-General of the Federation, should pay a fine of N25 million to each of Mr. El-Zakzaky and his wife.
Mr. El-Zakzaky was arrested by the military on December 14, 2015, after a clash between the movement and officers of the Nigerian Army. The army killed at least 347 members of the group.
His supporters had held several protests in parts of the country, especially in the Federal Capital Territory, for his release before the court ruling in December.
Secretary of the IMN’s Academic Forum, Abdullahi Musa, said the group had suspended all protests for Mr. El-Zakzaky’s release till the expiration of the deadline of the court order.
The 45 days deadline will elapse on January 15.
Another topical matter before the same court is the expected decision of Justice Binta Nyako in the case involving a leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.
The trial of Mr. Kanu and three of his colleagues, David Nwawuisi, Benjamin Madubugwu and Chidiebere Onwudiwe, in the court on charges of treasonable felony was forced to end without proper adjournment on December 13.
A rowdy session precipitated by the defendants had prompted the court clerk to announce an abrupt adjournment, after Mrs. Binta ordered a 10 minutes recess during session that day.
The disorder began after the court granted an application for partial screening from public view of prosecution witnesses as a measure of their protection.
The defendants had been re-arraigned before Mrs. Nyako’s court after the first defendant, Mr. Kanu, said he had no confidence in the former judge, John Tsoho.
Delivering the ruling that drew the defendants’ fury, Mrs. Nyako said the court would allow the witnesses some degree of protection.
“The counsels and the defendants will see the witnesses. The witnesses will have special entrances to and outside the court,” the judge had ruled.
Mrs. Nyako also said the court would allow the witnesses to be shielded with screen-guards. She said the court would set aside two days for rehearsals on how the witnesses will come into the court and depart from the court.
After the ruling, Mr. Kanu said he would not submit himself to “a secret trial”.
After a brief recess, Mr. Kanu began to speak again.
“I will address this court! You cannot be killing my people and tell me that you will make me have a secret trial. That won’t happen! The president can intimidate the judges, but he cannot do that to me. Tell him he has lied,” said Mr. Kanu.
After the other defendants joined in the bedlam, the court clerk then announced that the session was over and that the matter would not continue again on that day.
Outside the courtroom, the IPOB supporters clashed with the security operatives while the latter tried to return Mr. Kanu and the other defendants to the vehicle that brought them.
Three days later, former Abia State governor, Orji Kalu, met with Mr. Kanu in detention. The former governor said it was to explore possibilities for an out of court settlement on the matter.
Mr. Kanu’s trial began after he was arrested by operatives of the SSS in October 2015.
The case has moved from a magistrate court in Abuja to three separate courtrooms within the FHC since it started.
Justices Ngwuta, Ademola and Ofili-Ajumogobia
Hearing will continue this year in suits arising from the unprecedented arrest on October 7, 2016 of six senior judges, after midnight raids on their homes by operatives of the SSS.
The operation was carried out simultaneously in Abuja, Sokoto, Port Harcourt, Kano, Enugu and Gombe.
Those arrested include Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court and Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court Abuja.
Others are Justices Muazu Pindiga of Gombe State; Kabiru Auta of Kano State, Innocent Umezulike, of Enugu State and Mohammed Tsamiya, an appeal court judge in Ilorin, Kwara State.
Six days after the arrest, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC said it had commenced a separate investigation of eight other judges who may also be charged for fraud.
Two of the arrested judges, Messrs. Ngwuta and Ademola, have since been charged by the Federal Government for alleged fraud.
The trial of Mr. Ngwuta which began on November 21, 2016 is expected to continue on January 18.
Mr. Ademola’s trial which began on December, 13, 2016 is also expected to continue onJanuary 18.
In Lagos, the trial of another Federal High Court judge, Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia, who was arraigned by the EFCC, is expected to continue on January 9.
Mrs. Ofili-Ajumogobia and a senior advocate of Nigeria, Godwin Obla, are facing a 30-count charge of fraud. They were arraigned on November 28, 2016.
Another topical matter to continue in 2017 is the trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki which began in September, 2015.
Mr. Saraki’s trial, on a 16-count charge, for alleged false and anticipatory declaration of asset, featured the protracted cross-examination of the first prosecution witness, Michael Wetkas, by the defendant’s lawyers.
Mr. Wetkas, whose cross examination began on April 18, appeared at the Code of Conduct Tribunal 14 times before the end of his cross-examination seven months later in November, 2016.
The trial is expected to continue on January 11.
Another matter likely to make the news from cases involving politically-exposed persons is the trial of former National security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
Mr. Dasuki, who has been facing multiple trials in relation to an alleged abuse of office while he was NSA, had been granted bail by several courts, but the orders were ignored by the Nigerian government.
After it did not respect the bail orders of three Nigerian courts, the Nigerian government said it was not obliged to obey a court order by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Court delivered on October, 4 2016.
The court had ruled that the Federal Government should pay a sum of N15 million as damages to Mr. Dasuki.
It further decided that the cost of litigation will be summed up and charged against the Nigerian government.
Two separate cases, involving Mr. Dasuki, at the federal Capital Territory High Court, under the same judge, Hussien Baba-Yusuf, are expected to continue on January 24.
Another matter, concerning Mr. Dasuki and bordering on illegal possession of firearms at the Federal High Court, in Abuja has been suspended, after the presiding judge, Adeniyi Ademola, withdrew from the matter on October 18.
Mr. Ademola’s decision to withdraw from the matter was based on an allegation that his arrest by the SSS on October 7, 2016 was in connection with a previous decision he had made on Mr. Dasuki’s trial.
The trial of former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, which began in January 2016 is expected to be determined this year.
The trial was among the first set of cases to reach defence stage, among the list of cases begun by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
Mr. Metuh is facing a seven-count charge for alleged diversion of N400 million, part of $2.1 billion allegedly diverted from the office of Mr. Dasuki as NSA.
The trial is expected to continue on January 10.