Posted by Godwin Tsa, Abuja | 10 April 2019 | 614 times
Justice Taiwo .O. Taiwo of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court has washed his hands off the suit filed by the Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha, urging the court to grant an order compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue him with a certificate of return as the senator-elect for Imo West senatorial district.
Justice Taiwo consequently returned the case file to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati, for reassignment to another judge.
The decision of the judge followed allegations of bias made against him by the candidates of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the February 23 National Assembly elections, Jones Onyeriri and that of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), Senator Osita Izunaso.
Onyeriri in his petition addressed to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati, dated April 8, 2019,
asked the judge to disqualify himself from the suit.
In the petition, Onyeriri demanded that the judge should withdraw from the matter because of his utterances in which he “clearly prejudged the substantive issues that will be resolved in this matter and clearly showed he has taken sides with the plaintiff (Okorocha).”
In an affidavit deposed on his behalf by a lawyer, Chijioke Nzekwe, he stated that Justice Taiwo on Friday told counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Wendy Kuku, that the commission was responsible for the problems in the election.
Nzekwe further averred that “the Honourable Judge went further to say that he had read through the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and found nothing therein that robs him of the jurisdiction to hear his suit.’
“This pronouncement shocked all the counsel who was present in court and even members of the public and pressmen who were in the gallery because 2nd and 3rd defendant (INEC and Onyeriri) have Notices of Preliminary Objection challenging the jurisdiction of the Honourable Court to hear this matter,” he averred.
In his motion on notice dated April 8, 2019 and brought pursuant to section 22 (1) of Federal High Court, 2004, and Section 36 (1) of the 1999 constitution, Senator Izunaso asked for an order transferring the suit to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment to any other judge of the court.
The motion which was filed by his counsel, Prince Orji Nwafor-Orizu, also sought for an order of the court, disqualifying itself from further hearing of the suit, on the grounds that “there is likelihood of bias on the part of this honorable court to continue to hear the suit as the honorable presiding judge has expressed an opinion favorable to the plaintiff even without the hearing of the substantive suit.
“That the said utterances were made on April 5, 2019, which utterances clearly pre-judged the substantive issues that will be resolved in this matter and clearly showed that the honorable presiding judge has taken sides with the plaintiff.”
When the matter was called, Justice Taiwo announced his decision to rescue himself from adjudicating on the matter based on allegations of bias against him.
He further announced that the case file will be returned to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati for re-assignment to another judge.
Okorocha in the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/296/2019, filed by his counsel, Kehinde Ogunwumiju (SAN), is seeking the court order compelling the INEC to issue him a certificate of return as the validly elected senator for Imo West Senatorial District. (Daily Sun)
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