Judges-wig

Justice Ayo Emmanuel of the Jos Federal High Court on Friday refused to disqualify himself in an alleged N400 million fraud case.

The judge announced the decision in his ruling on an application filed before him by a defence counsel.

The counsel, Mr. Uche Mgbemena, had in a motion raised on Thursday, asked Justice Emmanuel, who is hearing the alleged fraud case, to disqualify himself and the EFCC’s prosecution, Mr Cosmas Ugwu.

Mgbemena represents Mr. Ibrahim Suleiman, who has been standing trial since 2007 for alleged involvement in hacking into the system of the defunct First Inland Bank plc.

He is being accused of transferring and distributing the amount into his private account and different others without the knowledge of the bank.

But Justice Emmanuel, in his ruling, described the allegations or bias and having an “unholy relationship’’ with the prosecution counsel, levelled against him by the accused as “mere speculations”.

“The allegation of bias is a serious matter more so when labeled on a judge of my person; such allegation must be supported by clear evidences and not mere speculations as deduced by the defence counsel.

“It’s not good for the defence counsel to be suspicious of every move of the presiding judge; more so in all the proceedings in this case, there was nowhere in which the issue of bias could be said to have surfaced.

“Such allegation raised without any concrete evidence is not acceptable, ’’ the judge declared.

Commenting on the call to disqualify the prosecution counsel, the judged said “there is nowhere in law, where it is said a lawyer who deposed to a counter affidavit should be disqualified from the case his is handling”.

On his (judge) alleged “unholy relationship’’ with the prosecution counsel, Emmanuel asked “when has the corridor leading to the chamber of a judge has become a place for litigants to loiter about and for a lawyer to be seen with him?’’

He further asked, “What will a judge be discussing with a lawyer in his chamber for more than an hour?’’

The judge described the allegation as “scandalous and scrupulous’’.

According to him, it’s expedient upon the defence counsel and his client to fear God and speak the truth in the temple of justice and not to raise frivolous allegations against his person and the prosecutor.

“It’s not in my character or practice to allow any lawyer into my chamber nor converse with them outside the court room.

“Consequently, I will return a negative answer to the application and therefore it’s hereby refused and dismissed for lack of merit,’’ the judge declared.

Mgbemena had, in a motion filed before the court on Thursday, accused the judge of bias and having an “unholy and unethical relationship’’ with the prosecution counsel.

“My Lord, we hereby depose that your lordship’s biased comments against our client and your unethical relationship with the prosecution counsel has made the accused uncomfortable and afraid of obtaining a fair trial.

“My client, together with his brother in-law, after our last sitting, saw the prosecution counsel entering into your chamber and stayed for over an hour before coming out.

“I hereby urge your Lordship to recuse himself from the case and also disqualify the prosecution counsel for having personally deposed to a counter affidavit dated Sept. 8, 2017 in response to the defendant’s application, ’’ the defence counsel urged the court.

But Ugwu, the prosecutor, challenged the application, which he described as “very outrageous and contrary to the law’’ which did not disqualify any counsel who deposed to an affidavit of a defendant.

However, the judge adjourned the case to Nov. 15, 16 and 17 for continuation of hearing.

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