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The Conviction Of Bala James Ngilari And Its Lessons By Okoi Obono-Obla

March 10, 2017

The conviction and sentence to five years imprisonment of a former Governor of Adamawa State, Bala James Ngilari by an Adamawa State High Court for his contravention of the Adamawa State Procurement Law in the award of a N167.8 million contract for the supply of 25 units of Toyota Camry 2.8 to a contractor known only to him is heart-warming and exhilarating. 

The transaction was only known to the governor as no other government official knows about the transaction. 

The Court rightly found Bala Ngilari guilty of 17 charges leveled against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for awarding contracts without following due process.

The conviction came at the right time when some skeptics have impetuously and hurriedly dismissed the anti-corruption agenda of the present administration as a bluster. 

In this war, there is no sacred cow. There is no retreat, no surrender! The war must be won!

This conviction undoubtedly is a pointer to the fact that the war against corruption is on course. This conviction is surely timely and indeed a lesson to politically exposed persons in government that there is a day of reckoning after public office.  There is no longer any place to hide. 

The trial of the case was fast-tracked and lasted for roughly five months. This is unprecedented in the history of criminal trials in a country, where the justice system is scandalously slow and laborious. 

The Economic and Financial Crimes arraigned Ngilari on September 21, 2016, for violation of procurement laws in the award of contract of N167.8million to El-Yadi Motors Limited for the supply of 25 units of operational vehicles (Toyota Corolla), but by  March 6th, 2017 judgment had been delivered. 

I highly commend Honourable Justice Nathan Musa for showing such a high sense of commitment, industry, professionalism and diligence. 

The Adamawa’s case is a manifestation that if the judicial arm of government is dedicated and up and doing, criminal matters against politically exposed persons can still be expeditiously and speedily heard and determined. 

Judges should be firm and adopt a no-nonsense approach to adjudication. Judges must be masters of their courts and always exercise their discretion judiciously and judicially in refusing applications for frivolous adjournments from defense counsel. Judges should equally not tolerate prosecutors that are slop shoddy and not diligent, prosecutors should be professional and conscientious in carrying out their prosecutorial duties.  

With the coming into force of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 and its objective of ensuring speedy hearing and determination of criminal cases, we should not again be saddled with delays in the determination of cases in our courts if Judges do the needful.