Article by Moses Emorinken
The prosecution of culprits involved in the theft of COVID-19 palliatives three years ago has suffered a major setback. Many of the cases have been struck out by the courts in different states for lack of due diligence by the states’ prosecution teams.
According to the COVID-19 accountability report by Gavel, a non-governmental organization, findings from the courts while monitoring the cases showed that “cases found have either been completed or struck out due to lack of diligent prosecution by the state.”
The report further revealed that the courts visited were in the following states: Lagos, Oyo, Niger, Anambra, Bayelsa, and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
In Lagos State, courts 1 – 25, High Court of Lagos, Ikeja, and High Court of Lagos, Badagry, were visited. In Oyo State, courts 1 – 12, High Court of Oyo State, Ring Road, and courts 14 – 23, High Court of Oyo State, Iyaganku, were visited.
In Niger State, the High Court of Justice, Suleja, was visited. In Anambra State, Chief Magistrate Court, Odili, and Chief Magistrate Court, Onitsha, were visited.
In Bayelsa State, the High court of Justice, Nembe Judicial Division, and Chief Magistrate Court, Yenagoa, were visited. Kwali High Court, Maitama High Court, Nyanya High Court, and Federal High Court Headquarters, Abuja, were visited in the FCT.
The report stated: “Several courtrooms were visited in each of the focus states. Due to the poor data-recording nature of the courts, the search for relevant case(s) had to be done manually by our lawyers and respective court registrars.
“Visitations to the court were several and consistent. However, some of such visitations bore little fruit, as the cases found have either been completed or struck out due to the state’s lack of diligent prosecution.”
Citing a case in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, the report added: “The Defendants and others now at large, on the 4th day of April 2020 at Yenagoa, are said to have conspired amongst themselves to steal bags of garri, which were part of the COVID-19 palliatives given to the Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State by the Bayelsa State Government.” The report, however, noted that the case is at the stage of filing of final address by counsel.
While stating that five COVID-19-related court cases were identified and tracked to ensure an open dispensation of justice, the report gave details of the case in Yenagoa. It stated:
“NAME OF CASE Commissioner of Police v. Itubu Ogi & 3 Others.
CHARGE NO: YMC/130c/2020.
COURT: Chief Magistrate Court, Yenagoa.
DATE OF ARRAIGNMENT: the 20th day of April 2020.”