A lawyer walks through the compound at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi district in Lagos, Nigeria, May 8, 2018. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
Reuters

Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday declined to recused himself from the ongoing trial of a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide, and two others, who were accused of allegedly laundering N650 million.

Akinjide, co-accused, Ayo Adeseun and Olarenwaju Otiti, who are chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Oyo State, had in separate applications asked the Judge to recuse himself from the trial on the grounds that he was a former employee of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), and would, therefore, be bias.

But Justice Hassan in his ruling held that the applications are meant to harass, intimidate and blackmail the court and the court will not succumb to cheap blackmail.

The former Minister, Adeseun and Otiti were arraigned before the court by the EFCC on a 24-count charge of conspiracy and fraud.

The anti-graft agency had alleged that the accused persons conspired to directly take possession of N650 million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.

According to the commission, they allegedly received the money from Mrs Alison-Madueke in the build- up to the 2015 general election.

The money was said to be part of a larger sum of $115 million allegedly doled out by Mrs. Alison-Madueke to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election.

However, they all pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Justice Hassan in his ruling on Wednesday, identified one issue for determination, that is, whether the applicants are entitled to the reliefs sought.

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

“The main issue in contention is can that be 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.

“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 Dec, 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.

“Both applications are liable to be dismissed and they are accordingly dismissed; I make no order as to cost.” the judge held.

The court then adjourned the case till April 18 for continuation of trial.

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