In Nigeria, theatrics are often exhibited by public officials in courtrooms, police custody, as well as National Assembly panel when they are being tried for flagrant fraud cases. Time and time again, public officials always have different tricks up their sleeves. It appears they have all masterminded the art of feigning ailments and the infamous ‘fainting’ strategy is mostly used during court hearings, perhaps to either stall the trial or escape the long arm of justice.
The strategy was triumphant when former Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun was tried for corruption in June 2005. Balogun was charged to court and arraigned for embezzling and laundering over $100 million in his three years as Inspector General of Police from the Police treasury. His trial was quite a dramatic one as he collapsed on his seat at the Abuja High Court.
Years down the line, former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, followed suit in October 2016 as he passed out while he was in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. At the time, his spokesperson, Jude Ndukwe had alleged that Fani-Kayode was undergoing recovery therapy following his prolonged detention and was physically attacked by an EFCC officer when he fainted and was revived by the medical team at the anti-graft facility. He was tried on the grounds of corruption. He was accused of receiving illicit funds from former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki.
Olisah Metuh’s trial was hilarious to the core. The former spokesperson of Nigeria’s lead opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was arraigned in 2016 for money laundering by EFCC. The anti-graft commission accused him of receiving N400 million from the same largesse like Fani-Kayode. During his trial, Metuh alleged that he was ill and he sought the court’s permission to travel out of the country for treatment. His requests were denied. He then was unable to make an appearance in court. Reports had it that he had been admitted at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Hospital, Nnewi, Anambra state.
The judge remained undeterred and asked that he be present in court on the next adjourned date. Two weeks later, Metuh showed up to court in an ambulance. In March 2018, he ‘fainted’ as he approached the dock.
Just like her male counterparts, Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumobogia, also slumped on December 14, 2018, minutes to the commencement of her trial. Ofili-Ajumogobia had been arraigned by the EFCC before an Ikeja High Court for perversion of the course of justice, unlawful enrichment, and forgery.
Former Nigerian senator, Dino Melaye, also used the fainting tactic in January 2019 during his arrest. Police had laid siege to the home of Melaye, who represented Kogi West senatorial district at the time. The former senator made things difficult as he refused to be apprehended after he was accused of criminal conspiracy and culpable homicide. After eight days without water and electricity in his Abuja residence, he turned himself in. He, however, slumped while arriving the station. He was reluctant to leave his hospital bed for the court in Lokoja, after he claimed he was ill.
On May 2, 2018, he had appeared in court on a stretcher after he was charged with attempting to escape arrest. He had reportedly hid in a tree in order to escape from the police. He also jumped out of the moving vehicle with which the police were conveying him to a Lokoja court, eventually landing at the Zankili Medical Center, Mabuchi, Abuja.
July 2020 came and professor Kemebradikumo Pondei, the interim managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) applied the same stale tactic as he collapsed while being probed by the House of Representatives. What followed next was hilarious as people rushed to his side. Someone was seen massaged his shoulders while another tried to open his mouth to revive him.
Pondei was being interrogated over his alleged involvement in the misappropriation of N82.5 billion by the Commission.
Abdulrasheed Maina, a former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Taskforce Team, also fainted in the dock while being arraigned by the EFCC on charges of laundering over N2 billion from the pension scheme. He suddenly passed out at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday morning, December 10, 2020.
Before the incident, he had appeared in court in a wheelchair. After he was granted bail, his health was suddenly restored and he travelled from Sokoto to Niger Republic where he took cover for months before he was rearrested and extradited to Nigeria to face trial.