Several events which include the swearing in of Justice Walter Onnoghen as substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) on March 7 after the confusion generated by the delay in his confirmation, marked 2017 as thrilling year for the judiciary in Nigeria.
The Supreme Court on March 27 upheld the election of the caretaker committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by Sen. Ahmed Makarfi and dismissed the objection filed by factional chairman Ali Modu Sheriff against the appeal challenging the February 27 ruling of the Court of Appeal in Port Harcourt which declared him as the legitimate national chairman of the party.
Special courts/New panel on corruption
The CJN on September 18 directed all heads of courts to designate some courts in their jurisdictions as special courts for hearing of corruption and financial crimes cases.
Also, the National Judicial Council (NJC) on September 27 announced a 15-member Corruption and Financial Crimes Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO).
Court summons Jonathan over Metuh
A Federal High Court in Abuja on October 23 summoned former president, Goodluck Jonathan, to appear and testify in the trial of former spokesman of the PDP over allegations of receiving N400m arms funds from the office of the former NSA, Sambo Dasuki.
Also, trial eventually started in one of Dasuki’s cases before an FCT High Court in Maitama with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) calling its first witness, after about two years of pre-trial tussles.
An FCT High Court on April 5 acquitted Justice Adeniyi Ademola of all 18 count charges bordering on bribery and illegal possession of firearms.
The Federal Government also arraigned before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT), a justice of the Supreme Court, Sylvester Ngwuta, on an eight-count charge over allegations bordering on false and non-declaration of assets as a public officer.
The trials of Justices Rita Ofilli-Ajumogbia of the Federal High Court and James Agbadu-Fishim of the National Industrial Court are also still pending.
EFCC also filed four criminal charges against suspended Justice Mohammed Yunusa, also of the Federal High Court for allegedly collecting bribe from Rickey Tarfa (SAN), who is currently facing trial.
Justice Ademola voluntarily retires, sacked by NJC
Following the decision of Justice Adeniyi Ademola to retire voluntarily from the judiciary on December 6, the NJC on December 7 met and recommended his compulsory retirement to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The decision of Senate President Bukola Saraki and the EFCC to cross appeal against the judgement of the Court of Appeal in Abuja which ordered Saraki to return to the CCT to face trial on three counts charges showed that one of most protracted and celebrated legal proceedings in Nigeria is far from over.
Other high profile cases
After 10 years of trial, former governors of Plateau and Taraba states, Senator Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame closed their defences in the separate charges of fraud brought against them by the EFCC, setting the stage for judgment in their cases in early 2018.
Also, a former Chief of Administration of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF), Air Vice Marshal Mohammed Alkali Mamu (retired) while testifying before an FCT High Court in Maitama on October 14 told the court how foreign mercenary pilots brought in from Ukraine were engaged to combat Boko Haram terrorists disguised as instructors and how the cause of death of one of the mercenaries was covered from the Ukrainian embassy.
The EFCC also arraigned former minister of the FCT, Bala Mohammed, on a six-count charge bordering on bribery in the sum of N864 million and false asset declaration of properties in Abuja and Kaduna.
On November 28, the trial of Senator Isah Hamma Misau (APC, Bauchi) took a twist when Dr Alex Izinyon (SAN) informed the court that he had been given the fiat of the AGF to take over the matter as prosecution counsel.
IGP Ibrahim Idris appeared with Izinyon as his lawyer recently before Senate Ad hoc Committee probing the allegations levelled against him by Senator Misau.
Senator Abaribe summoned over Nnamdi Kanu’s disappearance
A Federal High Court in Abuja on October 17 summoned Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, as a surety to the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, to explain his whereabouts.
Several courts within the year ordered both interim and final forfeitures of properties and monies allegedly linked to former petroleum minister Diezani Alison-Madueke.
They include: permanent forfeiture of 56 houses valued at about N3.4 billion; temporary forfeiture of two penthouses valued at about €4 million; final forfeiture of N7.6 billion being loot allegedly recovered from her and another property on Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos valued at N11.75 billion.
However, on December 6, a Federal High Court in Abuja set aside its order made on May 30, freezing 16 accounts belonging to wife of former president Goodluck Jonathan, Patience.
Still on forfeitures, the special presidential investigation panel for the recovery of public property constituted in August 2017 came into limelight when on December 6, an FCT High Court in Apo ordered that 86 luxury vehicles, together with four houses and a quarry plant in Abuja, belonging to a Director of Finance and Accounts, Ministry of Works, Housing and Power, Ibrahim Tumsah, be temporarily forfeited to the Federal Government.
The Okoi Obono-Obla-led panel also issued letters of 21 days quit notice to former Senate President, David Mark; Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu and former Speaker of House of Reps, Dimeji Bankole.
Also served with the notices were former Deputy Speaker and serving senator Bayero Nafada and former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Aloysius Katsina-Alu. The panel said the five of them illegally acquired their then-official residences as their private properties. However, Senator Mark has since filed a suit before a Federal High Court in Abuja to challenge the quit notice.
Twelve years after the killing of six Abuja auto-spare parts dealers, the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, Justice Ishaq Bello sentenced to death two police officers for their roles in the killings and discharged and acquitted three others including former Deputy Commissioner of Police, Danjuma Ibrahim.
Husband murder: Maryam Sanda, mother, brother docked
Nigerians woke up on November 19 to the news that Bilyamin Mohammed Bello, son of a former PDP national chairman, Bello Haliru Mohammed, has allegedly been stabbed to death by his wife, Maryam Sanda. By December 14, the FCT Police Command had arraigned Maryam, her mother, Maimuna Aliyu and brother, Aliyu alongside one Sadiya Aminu over their involvement in the alleged murder.
While Maimuna, Aliyu and Sadiya were granted bail, the court sent the breast-feeding Maryam back to prison after refusing a bail application filed on her behalf for the second time.