There is something about Nigeria’s political climate and corruption trials that causes public officials to black out. Or so it seems considering that, since 2005, at least eight of such incidents have been recordedㅡsix since 2018.
Asides losing consciousness, there have been public officials who appeared in court on wheelchairs or crutches.
This, for example, included former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Haliru Mohammed, and former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Patrick Akpobolokemi, in 2016; and former General Officer Commanding 8 Division Nigerian Army, Major General Hakeem Otiki, in 2019.
Meanwhile, here’s a timeline of notable cases of public officials passing out, just in time to have their trials suspended or delayed, or to disrupt other exercises.
June 2005: Tafa Balogun
Former Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun, was arraigned for embezzling over $100 million by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). In 2005, he was sentenced to six months in prison after pleading guilty to failure to declare his assets and money laundering.
According to one report, during the proceedings on June 29 that year, “Tafa Balogun collapsed from his seat at the Abuja High Court, Wuse, gritting his teeth, clenching his fist and in pains before he went stiff. Although his eyes were closed, he was observed breathing spasmodically.”
“At exactly 12.17.45 seconds, about a dozen sympathisers including his wailing relations surrounded the bare-footed former police boss and carried him out of the not-too-spacious courtroom,” the report added.
Balogun was allegedly assaulted and manhandled by officials of the EFCC.
October 2016: Femi Fani-Kayode
Lawyer and former aviation minister, Femi Fani-Kayode, slumped while in EFCC custody on Saturday, October 22, 2016.
According to his spokesperson, Jude Ndukwe, he was revived by the medical team at the EFCC facility.
Ndukwe said Fani-Kayode was at the time undergoing recovery therapy following his prolonged detention and was physically attacked by an EFCC officer.
The former minister had been accused of receiving money unlawfully from Nigeria’s former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki.
May 2018: Olisa Metuh
The former national publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was invited and arraigned by the EFCC in January 2016 for allegedly receiving N400 million from the former NSA.
At first, in January 2018, he did not appear for his trial, explaining that he had been admitted at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Hospital in Anambra State, but the judge was not persuaded.
Two weeks later, Metuh arrived at the court premises in an ambulance. The following month, he applied for permission to travel abroad on the grounds of ill health.
On May 21, 2018, he “collapsed” while making his way to the dock. His case continued in July and he was finally convicted and sentenced to 39 years in prison in February 2020.
July 2018: Ayo Fayose
In the buildup to the gubernatorial election in Ekiti State in July 2018, the governor, Ayodele Fayose, reportedly passed out after police officers teargassed the government house. This happened on Wednesday, July 11.
According to Fayose’s spokesperson, Lere Olayinka, he was taken to the statehouse’ clinic for treatment after the incident.
Later that day, the government addressed journalists, appearing in a neck brace and arm sling. He lamented that he was shot at by the police after they received an order that he should be killed.
“I am in severe pain; I can’t turn this neck anymore. If anything happens to me, the Inspector-General of Police should be held accountable,” he famously cried as he broke into tears.
December 2018: Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia
Former federal high court judge, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumobogia, on December 14, 2018, slumped minutes to the commencement of her trial. She was then rushed to a hospital in the court’s ambulance.
She had been arraigned by the EFCC before an Ikeja High Court for charges bordering on perversion of the course of justice, unlawful enrichment, and forgery.
January 2019: Dino Melaye
Former senator, Dino Melaye, reportedly “fainted at his residence and at headquarters of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)” on January 4, 2019, days after the police laid a siege to his house over allegations of criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide.
Days later, he refused to leave his hospital bed for the court in Lokoja.
It was not Melaye’s first dramatic show in connection with criminal trials. He had in May 2018 appeared in court on a stretcher after he was charged with attempting to escape arrest.
July 2020: Kemebradikumo Pondei
The acting Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, slumped on Monday, July 20, during an interrogation by the House of Representatives. He was then escorted out of the building for medical attention.
The house committee on Niger Delta was probing an alleged misappropriation of N82.5 billion by the commission. Pondei had just been asked about an extra-budgetary expenditure incurred by the commission when he lost his grip.
December 2020: Abdulrasheed Maina
Today, December 10, Abdulrasheed Maina, former chairman of Pensions Reform Task Team (PRTT), collapsed at the Federal High Court. He had to be rushed out, thus stalling the proceedings.
Maina had been charged by the EFCC, last year, with laundering N2 billion. He had earlier violated his bail conditions and fled to the Niger Republic before his arrest and extradition in December.
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