Article by Amos Aluko
A former Nigerian Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC) staff, Musa Balarabe, has been dragged before the Maitama High Court in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, for allegedly diverting COVID-19 palliatives.
According to court documents obtained by Citizens’ Gavel, a civic tech organisation in Abuja, Balarabe was arraigned by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).
The report stated that at least five COVID-19-related court cases were identified, tracked, and their details obtained.
In the court case between the Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Musa Balarabe with the suit number FCT/CV/2756/2021 at the Maitama High Court, Abuja:
“The defendant, who was a former staff of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC), was arraigned for stealing and fraud by the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission for misappropriating Covid 19 relief funds.
“The prosecution is absent and the Defence Counsel was present. The matter was adjourned until the 26th of January to continue the trial. The next adjournment is the 26th of January, 2022.” the report said.
There have been reports that some state governments hoarded COVID-19 palliatives and relief materials donated by the private sector for distribution during the lockdown.
They had stored them in secret warehouses in connivance with government officials and NCDC staff.
Some of the warehouses were uncovered during the October 2020 EndSARS campaigns in Lagos, Osun, Kwara, Ekiti, and Cross River states, where such palliatives had been diverted.
Other places were Plateau, Bauchi and Kaduna, Delta and Rivers states, while some government and NCDC officials were fingered as the masterminds of the diversions, though little was heard about their prosecution.
Citizens’ Gavel, a civic tech organisation in Abuja, researched several courts across the focal states to see how the prosecution progressed.
A report by Citizens Gavel said 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 these visitations bore little fruit, as the cases found have either been completed or struck out due to the state’s lack of diligent prosecution.
“Listed below are the courts visited: Abuja; Kwali High Court, Maitama High Court, Nyanyan High Court and the Federal High Court Headquarters, Abuja.
“In Oyo State: these courts were visited in Oyo State; Courts 1 – 12, High Court of Oyo State, Ring Road, Courts 14 – 23, High Court of Oyo State, Iyaganku. In Lagos State, Courts 1- 25, High Court of Lagos, Ikeja; High Court of Lagos, Badagry; in Niger State: High Court of Justice, Suleja
“Anambra State; Chief Magistrate Court, Odili, Anambra State, Chief Magistrate Court, Onitsha, Anambra State; Bayelsa State: High court of Justice, Nembe Judicial Division, Yenagoa, Chief Magistrate Court, Yenagoa.”