By Joke Falaju
Investigations by Citizen’s Gavel, a civic tech organisation, have revealed that the court struck out most COVID-19-related cases due to the state’s lack of diligent prosecution.
The findings revealed that most of the court visits bore little or no fruit, as most of the cases found were either completed or struck out by the court for want of diligent prosecution.
It was stated, ” Visitations to the court were several and consistent. However, some of these visitations bore little fruit, as the cases found have either been completed or struck out due to the lack of diligent prosecution by the state.”
The findings revealed that several courtrooms were visited in each focus state, including the Federal Capital Territory, Niger, Bayelsa, Oyo, Lagos, and Anambra State, which had poor data recording. In contrast, the lawyers and respective court registrars had to search for relevant case(s) manually.
According to the report, the team of lawyers from Citizens Gavel visited some courts in the FCT, including the Kwali High Court, Maitama High Court, Nyanyan High Court, and Federal High Court Headquarters, Abuja. In contrast, the courts visited in Oyo State include Courts 1–12, the High Court of Oyo State, Ring Road Courts 14–23, and the High Court of Oyo State, Iyaganku.
In Lagos State: the team visited Courts 1–25, the High Court of Lagos, Ikeja, and the High Court of Lagos, Badagry, while in Niger State, the High Court of Justice, Suleja, was visited. The team visited the Chief Magistrate Court in Odili and the Chief Magistrate Court in Onitsha in Anambra State.
The High Court of Justice, the Nembe Judicial Division, Yenagoa, and the Chief Magistrate Court, Yenagoa, were visited for Bayelsa State.
The findings revealed that, following a rigorous process of searching for COVID-19-related cases, they identified five cases and tracked them to ensure an open dispensation of justice.
An instance of such a case is the Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Josephine Agata, with suit no: FCT/CV/1179/2021 Nyanyan High Court, wherein the defendant, who was a former staff member of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), was arraigned for stealing and fraud by the Independent Corrupt Practises Commission (ICPC) following the misappropriation of COVID-19 relief funds.
The case filed on January 27th, 2021, was said to be pending in court as of the last sitting. The prosecution’s counsel apologised for being absent last time as he took one of his witnesses on examination-in-chief. The matter was adjourned to January 18th for cross-examination by the defendant’s counsel.