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Judge refuses to withdraw from trial of Oyo PDP chieftains

Justice Muslim Hassan of a Federal High Court in Lagos State, on Wednesday, refused to withdraw from an ongoing trial involving two chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), over N650 million fraud.

The chieftains, Ayo Adeseun and Olarenwaju Otiti are standing trial alongside a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is prosecuting the defendants on an amended 24 counts charge bordering on the alleged offence.

Akinjide, Adeseun and Otiti are joined as first, second and third defendants respectively.

They had each pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bails.

Trial had since commenced in the suit, with witnesses being led in evidence.

On the last adjourned date of February 6, counsel to the second and third defendants had both moved their different applications, before the court.

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Defence’s motion prayed the judge recuses himself from the suit, premised on allegations of bias of having being a former head of legal in the EFCC.

Justice Hassan had then adjourned the case for ruling.

Delivering his ruling on Wednesday, the court highlighted all the arguments and counter arguments as canvassed by counsel to the defendants and prosecution, as well their respective submissions.

The court then held: “The only issues for determination are whether the applicants are entitled to the reliefs sought.

“It is not in dispute that “Judex” was former head of legal and prosecution of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

“The main issue in contention can be that sufficient reason or proof of bias against the second and third defendants; these allegations raised are spurious and lacks any substance.

“What can be more spurious when second defendant attached his own record of proceedings against the court’s own record of proceedings?

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“As rightly submitted by prosecution, at the time the defendants were investigated and subsequently charged before the Federal High Court in Ibadan, the trial judge had been appointed a judge already.

“I agree with learned counsel for the prosecution, that judges of superior courts of record, swear to oath of allegiance to be just and fair, and cannot be disqualified from presiding over cases by mere allegations that the judge once worked in an organisation.

“Learned counsel to the third defendant had filed a similar application for the transfer of the case to Ibadan;

“On 12 December, 2018, the court dismissed the application, only for counsel to turn around and raise allegations of bias

“These applications are meant to harass, intimidate and blackmail the court; the court will not succumb to cheap blackmail,” he held

Citing a plethora of judicial and statutory authorities, the court held:

“Both applications are liable to be dismissed and they are accordingly dismissed; I make no order as to cost,”

Meanwhile, following a letter for adjournment written by the prosecution, the court adjourned the case until April 18 for continuation of trial.

The defendants were re-arraigned on January 16, 2018, on the amended charge.

They were alleged to have received monies from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, in the build-up to the 2015 General elections.

The money was said to be part of the 115 million dollars allegedly disbursed by Alison-Madueke, to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election. (NAN)