Nigerian judge accused of corruption loses bid to delay trial

A federal judge accused of corruption on Friday lost his bid to delay his trial.

Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, judge of the Federal High Court, Bayelsa Division, is being prosecuted by the anti-graft agency, EFCC, for alleged unlawful renrichment with about $260,000 and N8.65million (about N81.7 million in total).

At the last adjourned sitting, Mr. Nganjiwa was granted bail on own-recognisance after he pleaded not guilty to the 14-count charge.

The counsel to the accused, Robert Clarke, had filed a motion on notice dated October 4, seeking an application for stay of proceedings.

Moving his application on Friday, Mr. Clarke said: “My Lord, after an appeal has been entered at the Court of Appeal, a date has been given for hearing. My Lord, in the interest of Justice and the Constitution of Nigeria, I urge you to grant this application.”

However, the prosecution counsel, Wahab Shittu, opposed the application based on the provision of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA.

“We strongly oppose this application based on the ACJA. It’s incompetent because the law does not allow it. My Lord, this will cause delay. Our courts frown on delay tactics by defence counsel.

“The fact that defendant has taken his plea means that he has surrendered himself to the jurisdiction of the court. This application is incomplete; it’s designed to delay proceedings. I urge my Lord to dismiss the application and order the prosecution to commerce its case. In fact, my Lord, our witnesses are ready.”

In his short ruling, Justice Akintoye held that “The application before the court is motion on notice, asking the court for stay of proceedings.

“The judiciary system has moved away from delay tactics. As a result, this matter will continue today. The application is hereby dismissed. We will proceed with the trial.”

Such delay tactics as employed by the accused is commony among politically exposed persons, PEPs, in Nigeria with some corruption trials on for over 10 years without any major ruling.

Such delays have been condemned by the presidency and rights activists amid calls for a judicial reform.

The National Judical Council led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, recently set up a 15-member committee to review the various corruption trials of PEPs.

Following Friday’s ruling, the counsel to Mr. Nganjiwa pleaded with the court for more time to go through the proof of evidence served on him by the prosecution.

Consequently, Justice Akintoye adjourned the case to November 13, 15 and 22, for continuation of trial.