Some might say that President Buhari’s biggest breakthrough thus far into his term, has been uncovering the diversion of $2.1 billion which was originally meant for the purchase of arms in the fight against Boko Haram. In order to probe the controversial arms purchase deal, Buhari empowered the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to arrest and prosecute people associated with the deal.
The prime arrest in the case was the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Mallam Dasuki Sambo, who was already under house arrest by the Department of State Security (DSS). Upon Dasuki’s arrest, more prominent Nigerians, especially government officials, have been arrested and while some have been released, others are proceeding to trial.
However, the arrests and trials have made some Nigerian elder statesmen come up with ingenious ways of boycotting what may be a severe judgement or punishment if they are found guilty of corruption.
When the former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Haliru Bello, was tried alongside his son, Abba, on the 6th of January, he arrived the court in a wheel chair. They were both tried on a four- count criminal charge including the N300 million received from the office of the NSA. While arguing for Bello’s bail, his lawyer called the attention of the court to his health condition and urged the court to grant him bail.
On the 7th of January, the judge granted a N600 million bail to both father and son, it is interesting to note that the former PDP chairman suddenly had a spinal cord injury that landed him in the wheel chair while his son contracted bronchial asthma just days before their trial commenced.
When Patrick Akpolokemi was arraigned by the EFCC in Lagos in December, 2015, he was walking without crutches or a limp. Akopolokemi, the former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), was arrested for the theft of N2.6 million.
At his hearing on the 14th of January, the former DG appeared before the Federal High court in Lagos sporting a crutch.
Medical checkup abroad
This is one of the excuses most used by Nigerians under EFCC scrutiny. Kingsley Kuku, the former Special Adviser to Goodluck Jonathan on the Niger Delta and Chairman of the Presidential Amnesty Programme was invited by the EFCC in 2015, over allegations of embezzlement. However, Kuku failed to show up, on the grounds that he was undergoing knee surgery and would have to get better before coming to Nigeria.
Since Dasuki’s trial began, he has also claimed ill health. His lawyer told the court at his trial last year, that Dasuki was billed to travel a day after his arrest for medical treatment; but the arrest and trial had prevented him from doing so. The presiding judge eventually granted him 3 weeks for treatment. However, Dasuki’s lawyer was made to sign an undertaking to produce him on the day of the trial.
Raymond Dokpesi, the chairman of DAAR Communications also pleaded with the court to travel out of the country for medical checkup.
The systematic destruction of evidence
There is a new way of destroying evidence now, and it seems that this method was pioneered by Olisa Metuh. According to the Premium Times, Metuh, the National Publicity Secretary of the PDP was presented with his statement for confirmation as part of the preparations for his prosecution. However, “rather than sign the document, Metuh on realising the weight of his confession, seized the documents and proceeded to tear them,” the newspaper reported.
Metuh then allegedly tried to stuff the papers into his mouth in a bid to swallow them, but one of the officials stopped him and recovered the torn pieces of the document from him.
With more people being arrested by the anti-graft agency, EFCC, Nigerians may not be so surprised if its leaders crow in court just to wiggle out of the long arms of justice.