Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has disqualified self from the trial of eight Boko Haram suspects. The development followed allegation of bias levied against him by the defendants.
The defendants are: Mohammed Usman (called Khalid Albarnawi), described as leader of a Boko Haram splinter group; Mohammed Bashir Saleh; Umar Bello (Abu Azzan); Mohammed Salisu (Datti); Yakubu Nuhu (Bello Maishayi); Usman Abubakar (Mugiratu) and a lady, Halima Aliyu.
Justice Tsoho in disqualifying himself from the trial, held that the issue of bias or lack of confidence in a trial court was not something to be taken lightly.
The 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th defendants through their counsel, had requested that their trial be transferred from Justice Tsoho to another court.
They are also asking for the transfer of their custody from the Department of State Service (DSS) to prisons on the ground of deteriorating health and threat to their lives at the DSS
In delivering ruling on the oral application made by the counsel to the 1st, 4th and 6th defendants, Samuel Attah, Justice Tsoho recalled how prosecuting counsel, Shuaibu Labaran, had on resumption of trial, urged the court not to entertain any application or move that may likely delay the day’s proceedings.
Yet, he had to stand down the case for 15 minutes to allow the defendants meet with their lawyers when they insisted they have something to tell the court.
However, when the court reconvened later, counsel to the 1st, 4th and 6th defendants told the court that his clients in their brief meeting said they no longer have the confidence that they will get justice in the court, following a reversal by the Court, of its earlier ruling on the place of custody of the suspects pending the determination of their trial.
Justice Tsoho who noted that the defendants did not appeal the ruling then, however stated that the defendants’ message was clear enough, and that the court will not ignore their grievances.
He said even when their counsel hinted them that the trial would start all over again if it was transferred to another court, the defendants insisted they prefer their lives to any speedy trial of the case.
Justice Tsoho noted that since it has become obvious that the issue of their being transferred from DSS custody to prison was no longer important, it was not necessary for them to make a formal application seeking the transfer of their trial to another court.
“This Court disqualify itself, accordingly, the case file is hereby transferred to the Acting Chief Judge for reassignment”, he said.”
Earlier, counsel to the 1st, 4th and 6th defendants, Samuel Attah, told the court that his client are not longer safe in the custody of the DSS owing to alleged inhuman treatment meted out to them.
The defendants were arraigned by the Federal Government over the killing of five foreigners who were abducted from a construction site in Kebbi State in 2011.