Why Corrupt Public Office Holders in Nigeria Go to Court on Wheelchairs

Why Corrupt Public Office Holders in Nigeria Go to Court on Wheelchairs

At the ongoing trial of the former pension chairman, Abdulrasheed Maina, in Abuja, there was a sudden halt in the proceedings, orchestrated by the defense counsel’s complain that his client is bleeding.

The defense counsel said that Maina cannot continue with his trial with his health under serious question before the court. He asked for adjournment to receive a report from Nigerian correctional services concerning the health status of his client.

The Nigerian correctional service has asked for a week to turn in Maina health report, and his advocate prayed the court to adjourn the hearing until the report is served. It was a dramatic situation that put the proceedings to a halt, and it was not the first time something like that is happening in a court hearing involving corruption.

On the 7th of November, Maina was brought to court on a wheelchair, after he couldn’t make a court appearance scheduled for the 5th of November. According to the medical report presented to the court, he was seriously ill, and his condition was pitiable even to the confession of the presiding judge. But he is not the only one who has fallen critically ill owing to his graft case.

In 2016, the former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chairman, Bello Haliru Mohammed, appeared in court on a wheelchair. Mohammed was on trial for his role in the alleged $2 billion the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki swindled through arms deal.

Another political figure who was notably brought to court on wheelchair is Olisa Metuh, the former PDP National Publicity Secretary, who was also accused of receiving N400 million from the embattled Sambo Dasuki in 2014, appeared critically ill on a wheelchair.

His case got more dramatic, in his recent court appearance; he came lying motionless on a stretcher.

There is a whole number of them; the former presidential adviser on Niger-Delta, Kingsley Kuku, former Adamawa state governor, Bala Ngilari, former minister of petroleum resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, former minister of aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, and the list goes on.

One question people keep asking in all these instances is: Why do Nigerian public office holders get sick as soon as they are put on trial for corruption?

The answer many have offered is that they do that to incur the sympathy of judges and the general public. While that is true, there is more to it. It takes a lot of lies, manipulations, cynicism and hardheartedness to loot public fund. And the looters go through all these because they believe that the end will justify the means. So when it turned out otherwise, it becomes a heart wrenching problem they didn’t include in the plan in the beginning, and therefore, will find it difficult to handle.

For instance, there’s a list of 23 landed property linked to Maina that the court has ordered its forfeiture. And millions of naira traced to him has also been confiscated by the Economic Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), and the hunt for more goes on.

That has been the case with many of them who were caught up in the act of looting. The (aku na esi obi ike) wealth gives confidence stance is no longer in play because there is nothing to hold on to. The reverberating effect wrecks through the heart and bones of the perpetrator, rendering him incapacitated in a short time, and his survival may depend on what he is able to hide from the government after all, from the proceeds of his loots.

The former governor of Bayelsa State, late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, is a noteworthy case. He embezzled as much as $55 million of public fund and used the proceeds to acquire assets around the world. He acquired luxury houses in California, London, and South Africa, and owned an oil refinery in Ecuador.

It was the kind of wealth his six years as a governor gave him the opportunity to amass, and he was happy and healthy swimming through it until 2005, when he was charged with money laundering in London and the police discovered that he had $3.2 million in cash and in the banks and $15 million real estate holdings there.

That was the beginning of the troubles that would later lead him to his early grave. Two years after his impeachment in 2005, Alamieyeseigha pleaded guilty to failing to declare his assets. The whole corruption saga got him only two years in prison.

In 2013, after he got out of prison, former president Goodluck Jonathan granted him presidential pardon, and once again, he became active in political activities. But he didn’t live long enough to enjoy it. Alamieyeseigha died in 2015 as a man who no longer had anything to be afraid of, apart from the fact that there is nothing left to hold on to from the wealth he illegally acquired. Not even his new political roles could assuage the emptiness that he feels for losing it all.

So it is with the rest of them, the fear of lying, intimidating, manipulating protocols only to lose it all in the end is the deadly disease that suddenly renders corrupt political office holders incapacitated during trials.

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