By Alex Elumanh in Abuja
The National Judicial Council, NJC, said yesterday that a total of 324 judgements were delivered by the Special Courts that were designated in 2017 to try graft and financial crime cases within the past six months.
Giving its progress report on some of the on-going high-profile corruption cases in the country, the legal body, stated in a statement signed by its Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, observed that 12 cases were struck out on various grounds, while 62 pending cases were reserved for judgement.
NJC stated that the breakdown was contained in a report card that was submitted by the Corruption and Financial Crime Cases Trials Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO).
The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN0, Justice Walter Onnoghen, who is also Chairman of the NJC, had last year, constituted the COTRIMCO with a mandate to tour the six geo-political zones of the country to dig out reasons why trial of some high-profile cases have been held up for years.
NJCâ€™s finding shows that over 30 of such pending cases involved former governors, ministers and lawmakers who allegedly looted public funds running into billions of Naira.
Two former governors of Taraba and Plateau states, Reverend Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye, were recently convicted and sentenced to 14 years imprisonment by a Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja for stealing and misappropriation of public funds.
The NJC, said its corruption trial monitoring committee which is headed by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Suleiman Galadima, had in the last six months, crisscrossed the country to monitor and ensure compliance with the directive of the CJN to ensure speedy dispensation of such cases.
He added that before the formation of the Committee, the Chief Justice, during a Special Session of the Supreme Court to mark the commencement of the 2017/2018 Legal Year, directed all the Heads of Court in the country to designate Special Courts solely for the purpose of expediting hearing on such pending cases.
The CJN further ordered that a list of such cases should be compiled and handed over to the COTRIMCO, saying upon receipt of the lists, the committee divided itself into three sub-committees to cater for the easy monitoring and evaluation of the said cases in the different zones of the country as follows: Zone A: Abuja and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Zone B: Northern Zone and Zone C: Southern Zone.
Giving a breakdown of how the courts in each zone carried out their duties, the NJC said: â€œOf the total number of 324 judgements delivered, the Supreme Court, in Zone A, delivered 52 judgements and reserved seven cases for judgement from the list of 125 cases pending before it, leaving an outstanding number of 73 cases.
According to NJC, â€œThe Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, within the period, also disposed of 74 appeals and reserved 11 for judgement from the list of 137 cases in its docket.
â€œThe Federal High Court delivered two judgements from the 91 pending cases before it, while the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory likewise delivered three judgements and reserve one case for judgement thereby leaving an outstanding number of 178 cases pending.
â€œIn Zone B, Northern Zone, 62 judgements were delivered by the six Court of Appeal Divisions, 19 Federal High Court Divisions and 19 High Courts of various Northern States from the total number of 425 cases pending in the Zone, while 12 cases were struck out.â€™â€™
From the 12 cases struck out, NJC added that five were from the Court of Appeal and seven from High Courts of three States, while the designated Courts in Zone C, (Southern Zone), have delivered judgements in 131 out of the 952 corruption and financial crime cases on-going at the various Courts and reserved 43 cases for judgements.
It further stated, â€œFrom the total number of judgements delivered in the zone, the Federal High Court delivered seven judgements out of a total of 304 cases pending before it; while the High Courts of 17 States delivered 124 cases from the 524 on-going in their various Courts.
â€œThe Court of Appeal in the zone has reserved 31 out of 121 appeals pending in the Court for judgement. The Federal High Court, on its part, reserved three cases for judgement while the various State High Courts in the Zone have reserved nine cases for judgement.â€
Â It said the committee would continue the exercise after the courtsâ€™ vacation.