Justice Binta Nyako, one of the wives of former Adamawa State Governor, Murtala Nyako, withdrew on Tuesday from cases involving the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
Most of the cases, 19 in all, are querying the propriety of Magu’s continued occupation of the headship of the EFCC even after his nomination by President Muhammadu Buhari was rejected twice by the Senate.
Announcing her withdrawal on Tuesday, Justice Nyako hinged her decision on the persistent request by the EFCC that the court’s Chief Judge, Justice Adamu Kafarati transfer the cases from her court in view of the ongoing trial of her husband and step son, Abdulazeez (a serving Senator) by the commission.
Ex-Governor Nyako and his son, Abdulazeez are being tried with some other on corruption related charges before Justice Okon Abang (another judge of the Federal High Court). The trial is ongoing at the Federal High Court Abuja, where Justice Nyako also sits.
Earlier on Tuesday, Justice Nyako drew the attention of lawyers in the cases to some number of letters by the EFCC, to the court’s Chief Judge, demanding the re-assignment of the cases to any other judge.
The judge said the fear expressed by the EFCC, to the effect that EFCC’s prosecution of her husband and step son would affect her decision, was unwarranted.
Justice Nyako said the trial of her husband and his son would not affect her decision in the cases. She noted that any party, dissatisfied with her decision in the suits has the right of appealing.
The judge noted that since justice was rooted in confidence, she was left with no option that to withdraw from the cases and return them to the Chief Judge for re-assignment.
A plaintiff in one of the cases, Wale Balogun said the EFCC’s request for the re-assignment of the cases was without basis. He noted that the EFCC has, before now, won some cases, particularly those relating to forfeiture of assets of suspects, before the judge.
Balogun noted that it was a ploy by the EFCC to delay the determination cases.
Justice Nyako, after announcing her withdrawal on Tuesday, adjourned the cases indefinitely, pending their re-assignment to another judge.
Most of the cases relate to the dispute over whether or not Magu could continue to occupy the headship of the EFCC without the confirmation of his nomination by the Senate.
The court had, earlier in the year, upon a directive by the court’s Chief Judge, directed that all cases relating to the non-confirmation of Magu be transferred to Justice Nyako’s court for determination.
When all the cases were all concentrated in her court by virtue of the Chief Judge’s directive, Justice Nyako, with the agreement of all lawyers in the case, elected to consolidate all the cases a render a single judgment that will bind all, because most of the issues were similar.
Magu had, in a July 30, 2018 letter, to the lawyer handling the cases for the EFCC, Wahab Shittu, requested that he take steps towards ensuring the re-assignment of the cases.
Magu had stressed in the letter that the transfer was necessary “to avoid bias and conflict of interest because the commission is prosecuting the spouse and step-son of His Lordship, namely Admiral Murtala Nyako (retd), and Senator Abdulazeez Nyako, respectively”.
The letter with reference number EFCC/EC/GC/31/2133 and titled ‘Authority to apply for re-assignment of all cases involving Ibrahim M. Magu pending before the Honourable Justice Binta Nyako’, was personally signed by the Acting Chairman of EFCC.
Part of the letter reads: “You have my instruction to make appropriate application for the re-assignment of all cases involving Mr. Ibrahim M. Magu, the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, pending before the Honourable Justice Binta Nyako.”
Based on Magu’s letter, Shittu wrote a letter dated July 31, 2018, to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, demanding that the cases be transferred to any other judges.
Shittu’s letter reads: “Respectfully, we have been briefed by our clients to seek a transfer of all pending consolidated involving our clients before His Lordship, Hon. Justice Binta Nyako, to another judge of the Federal High Court for reasons stated in our clients’ letter addressed to our firm dated July 30, 2018,” he stated.
Again, Shittu wrote a reminder on October 5, 2018 addressed to the Registrar of the Federal High Court, drawing attention to his earlier letter, which was yet to be acted on.
The October 5 letter reads: “Respectfully, we write to draw His Lordship’s attention to our letter dated 31st July, 2018, addressed to the honourable Chief Judge of the Federal High Court conveying our client’s request to the Chief Judge to the Federal High Court that all matter concerning the subject matter above be transferred from this honourable court for reasons contained on our clients attaches letter.
“Respectfully we tremble in requesting that out client’s position be respected in the interest of justice in this matter.
“Kindly draw His Lordship attention to our clients‘ predicament as expressed in attached letter now receiving the consideration of His Lordship, the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.”
Copies of the October 5 letter were sent to lawyers to parties in the affected cases, including the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata, who represents President Muhammadu Buhari and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN).
The affected cases are: Barr Bello Bakari vs. AGF; Abubakar Sani vs.the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Jibrin Samuel Okutepa vs. President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Lady Chidinma Udebani.
Others are the Incorporated Trustees of Justice Mission International vs. AGF; Barr Alia Jamilu vs. President, Federal Republic of Nigeria & 4 others; Emmanuel Esero vs. Ibrahim Magu; the Registered Trustees of African Patriotic Youth Assembly vs. Ibrahim Magu & 6 others.
There are also the cases involving Wale Balogun vs. the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and 4 others; Chijioke Kanu vs. AGF and Johnmary Chukwukasi Jideobi vs. the Senate of Federal Republic of Nigeria and 3 others