Amidst imposition of curfew across Lagos State by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the High Court of the state situated at Igbosere recently came under attack by some hoodlums who set it ablaze after vandalizing it.
Many case files were burnt in the blaze, while others including valuables such as desktop computers, air conditioners, refrigerators and chairs were stolen. A viral video even showed one of the hoodlums dressed in a judge’s gown and wig, wielding a machete.
Condemning the attack during an on-thespot assessment of the damage by South-West states governors and ministers, the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Kazeem Alogba, disclosed that many exhibits and files of cases ongoing at the court have been burnt. Justice Alogba pleaded with the President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olumide Akpata, who was part of the visit, to prevail on lawyers to make case files available to the court in order to rebuild those destroyed in the attack.
Sequel to the lamentation by the Chief Judge, the ignoble act of the hoodlums might have put cases being heard at the court at risk of being delayed. Here are some of the cases that may be affected: Ricky Tarfa’s forgery, bribery case One of the high profile cases which may be affected is the one involving a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Ricky Tarfa over alleged forgery and bribery.
The matter which took off before Justice Adedayo Akintoye on March 9, 2016, has suffered series of adjournments. The silk is currently standing trial before the judge on an amended 27-count charge of alleged forgery, bribery and obstruction of public officers. He is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The last time the case came up at the court was on January 30, 2020, when its hearing was further stalled due to the absence of the prosecution’s lawyer. He was said to have been held up inside traffic.
The matter could not go on at the next adjourned date of March 26, 2020, owing to the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic. Tarfa has been unable to attend his trial since January 21, 2019, when he travelled abroad following a medical emergency.
He was first arraigned by the EFCC on March 9, 2016 and subsequently re-arraigned on November 16, 2016 on an amended charge. In the charge, the defendant was accused of wilfully obstructing authorized EFCC officials from performing their duties, refusal to declare assets and giving false information to a public officer.
The agency also alleged, among others, that the silk offered N5.3 million gratification to Justice Hyeladzira Ajiya Nganjiwa of the Bayelsa Division of the Federal High Court, in order to compromise him. All the counts were, however, denied by the silk and he was granted bail on self-recognizance.
Synagogue building collapse Another high profile case which may be delayed is the one involving the Registered Trustees of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) and four others over the collapse of a building within the church premises on September 12, 2014, where about 116 persons, mostly South Africans, lost their lives.
The SCOAN Trustees, two contractors of the church, Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun, alongside their companies – Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company and Jandy Trust Ltd., are currently facing trial over the unfortunate incident. They are being tried since 2016 by the Lagos State government on a 110-count charge of involuntary manslaughter before Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo.
Parties in the matter are at the point of adopting their final written addresses before the attack on the court. The Lagos State government said the Trustees violated Section 75 of the Urban and Regional Planning Law of Lagos State, 2010. All the defendants were arraigned on April 19, 2016 and they denied the alleged offence.
Evans case Further hearing in the trial of suspected kidnap kingpin, Chukwudumeme Onwuamadike, alias Evans, may also suffer setback owing to the burning of the court. Evans is currently facing two separate charges, bordering on conspiracy to kidnap, kidnapping and attempted murder, before Justice Adedayo Akintoye.
In the first charge, Evans is standing trial alongside Joseph Emeka, Ugochukwu Nwachukwu and Victor Aduba. However, in the second charge, he is standing trial alongside Joseph Emeka, Linus Okpara and Victor Aduba.
The case was last heard on October 23, 2019, when the judge admitted Evans confessional statement as evidence. The defendant had told the court that his confessional statement after his arrest in 2017 was made under duress. He said that he signed the papers given to him by the police with fear to avoid being tortured to death. However, at the end of a trial-within-trial to confirm the veracity of his claims, Justice Akintoye dismissed Evans claims.
In her verdict, the judge held that the test of voluntariness of a statement cannot be determined by a procedural law relied upon by the defendant but by the provisions of the evidence act which is the instant law that regulates the admissibility of a statement.
Udeme Otike-Odibi’s alleged murder case Another high profile case that may be stalled is that of a female lawyer, Udeme Otike-Odibi, who was arraigned by the Lagos State government on June 13, 2018, on a two-count charge of killing her husband, Symphorosa.
At the last hearing of the matter on November 14, 2019, the trial judge, Justice Adedayo Akintoye, dismissed Udeme lawyer’s objection to the admissibility of his client’s confessional statement.
In dismissing the objection, the judge held that the confessional statement was obtained in line with the provisions of Section 93 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL). Otike-Odibi was arraigned on June 13, 2018, on a two-count charge of murder and misconduct with regard to a corpse.
The Lagos State government accused her of stabbing Symphorosa Otike-Odibi to death and mutilating his corpse by severing his manhood on May 3, 2018, at their Diamond Estate, Sangotedo, Lekki, Lagos home. She, however, denied the alleged offence.