Background: The Katsina State government accused the former governor, Ibrahim Shema, of defrauding the state of N11 billion during his two terms as governor (2007 – 2015). The government then gave fiat to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) – a federal government agency – to prosecute the ex-governor. The EFCC duly complied and arraigned Shema and three others before Justice Maikaita Bako of the Katsina State High Court.
Shema protested against his arraignment. He argued before the Katsina High Court that he was not given fair hearing, was not availed documents pertaining to the petition against him and was not allowed access to state facilities that would have facilitated fair hearing. He also opposed the authorization given by the state government to the EFCC to prosecute him. The application was rejected by the High Court, prompting Shema to appeal.
Appeal dismissed: On Tuesday, the Appeal Court also rejected his application. The court ruled that the state government has the prerogative to not only prosecute the ex-governor, but to give fiat to a federal government agency to prosecute him. In its unanimous judgement read by Justice H.A Abiru, the Appeal Court held that the action of the state government was not unconstitutional.
The court however recognized Shema’s right to be availed documents pertaining to charges against him but said his application could not stand as it was filed prematurely and before a plea was taken.
After the ruling, Shema’s counsel, Elisha Y. Kora, who spoke with newsmen, said though there were grounds for them to disagree with the judgment, their next action would be determined when they are availed copies of the judgment to go through.
And that is where this begins to feel like deja vu: Shema will wait for the court to provide copies of its judgement, then as expected, he will appeal the ruling before the Supreme Court. It will drag on for a while, and depending on the ruling of the highest court, it will go back to the Katsina High Court.
Note that right now, the case hasn’t begun – Shema has not even taken a plea. Before the Supreme Court rules, then the case starts again, and is appealed again, and so on, it is very likely that this would drag on for several more years.
This is the reason anti-corruption agencies have been unable to successfully prosecute cases of politically exposed persons. Some cases against former governors have been pending at various courts since 2003. From Orji Uzor Kalu to Ayo Fayose to Saidu Dakingari to Saminu Turaki to Ikedi Ohakim, amongst others, the delay tactics employed and Nigeria’s peculiar administration of justice system makes it so difficult to get convictions.