The Punch Newspaper recently hyped the so-called called alleged forgery of Senate Standing Rule. In a report that borders on an unrelenting media trial of Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the newspaper robustly reported that the “Deputy Senate President had alleged in his application filed on December 18, 2015, that Justice Ademola was bias in the handling of the case due to his alleged closeness to National Leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu” and “that the judge’s wife was recently appointed Head of Service in Lagos State due to his (Justice Ademola’s) relationship with Tinubu.”

The medium also reported that Senator Ekweremadu further alleged that since the suit was filed, the trial judge had subjected his lawyers to various acts of intimidation and harassment, insisting that “Any independent bystander in court cannot but arrive at the conclusion that Justice Ademola is clearly biased in this matter and is working to a predetermined conclusion.”

Ekweremadu also alleged that as a result of his (Ademola’s) closeness to the APC leaders, and to ensure that he does their bidding, “Hon. Justice Ademola’s wife, Mrs. Olabowale Toluwalope Ademola, was on 19th October, 2015, sworn in as the Head of Service in Lagos State under the control of the APC.

The style and cast of the “Punch” reportage of the innocuous application by the Deputy President of the Senate on the issue of likelihood of judicial bias, tend to create the impression that Senator Ekweremadu is unnecessarily seeking to truncate proceedings of the court. The newspaper did not deem it necessary to comment on matters of judicial ethics with a view to inform the public the basic information about the grounds on which motions to disqualify judges and other adjudicators are made or the laws which governs the subject of judicial disqualification and the jurisprudence that has developed with respect to this important subject. It is therefore necessary to analyze Ekweremadu’s application through the prism of commonsense and on the principles of natural justice.

Tinubu’s closeness with Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, which made it possible for him to appoint Mrs. Ademola as Head of Service of Lagos State is not in doubt. The “Punch” in celebrating this relationship on Nov 12, 2015 under the title “Ambode, epitome of creativity, intelligence”, reported Bola Tinubu’s confession thus: “When we’re thinking of whom to succeed Fashola as Lagos State Governor, Ambode himself never thought about it; we sought him out and I’m proud to be his political grandfather”.

Having established the closeness of Tinubu with his adopted political grandson, Amobde, let us consider Tinubu’s relationship with Saraki/Ekweremadu leadership of the Senate.

According to an online publicationNAIJ.COM, of June 11, 2015, Tinubu was reported as insisting that “I will never recognize such a kangaroo arrangement that produced Bukola at the Senate leadership. I cannot recognize Bukola as the Senate President,” he concluded. If a man who harbours such animosity against you has influenced the appointment of the wife of the judge who presides over a case that the same man instituted against you by proxy, is it not reasonable to allege likelihood of bias and possible conflict of interest on the part of the judge?

Does Tinubu have vested in the removal of Saraki and Ekweremadu from the Senate leadership? Of course yes! It is therefore instructive that it was within the pendency of case in the Court of Justice Ademola that the wife of the trial judge was appointed as the head of service of Lagos state by Tinubu’s grandson. Is it not obvious and within the bounds of conspiracy theory to hold that there is more in that appointment than meets the common eyes? If the man sitting over your case is the brother and close ally of the same man sponsoring people to remove you from office, would you expect justice?

An Ijaw proverb says that it will be the ninth wonder of the world for an ant to have a fair judgment in the congregation of fowls. The right to be tried by an impartial judge is deeply embedded in our jurisprudence. In fact, this right has often been considered to be the cornerstone of Nigerian legal system. It is in the spirit of unfettered justice that a reasonable apprehension of bias should be a legal standard for disqualifying judges on bias. Bias of the decision-maker can be real or merely perceived. A reasonable apprehension of bias may be raised where an informed person, viewing the matter realistically and practically and having thought the matter through, would think it more likely than not that the judge would unconsciously or consciously decide the issue unfairly.

Written By Obioma Ezenwobodo Esq

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