A Lagos State High Court judge has withdrawn from the trial of a judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, following allegations of bias.
Trial Judge, Justice Adedayo Akintoye, today (Wednesday) held that in the interest of justice, she had transferred the case file back to the Administrative Judge of Lagos so it could be re-assigned to another judge.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had arraigned Justice Nganjiwa before Justice Akintoye for alleged unlawful enrichment to the tune of $260,000 and N8,650,000 on June 23, 2017.
The commission said the sums did not correspond with the judge’s salary. They also claimed that the judge could not explain the source of the funds.
Justice Nganjiwa, who is attached to the Bayelsa Division of the Federal High Court, was, therefore, arraigned on 14 counts before Justice Akintoye.
The defendant and his lawyer were not present at today’s proceedings but at the last sitting of the court on Nov 13, Mr Robert Clarke, counsel to Justice Nganjiwa told the court that he had written a letter dated November 10, 2017, to the Administrative Judge of the Lagos High Court seeking a transfer of the matter to another judge.
He said he had also filed an application objecting to the trial of his client before the trial judge, Justice Akintoye, and accused the trial judge of bias in favour of the Prosecution.
In the letter which was sighted by newsmen, Mr Clarke said, “The trial judge is presiding over the criminal trial of a Snr Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Ricky Tarfa and the counts and facts of the charge against his client, Justice Nganjiwa, are substantially similar to the counts & facts of the charges against the Snr advocate.”
The EFCC had mentioned Mr Ricky Tarfa as one of the lawyers who allegedly bribed Justice Nganjiwa for the purpose of obtaining a favourable outcome in his cases.
In the letter, Justice Nganjiwa asked Justice Akintoye to return his case file to the Chief Judge of Lagos, Justice Opeyemi Oke for the purposes of re-assignment to another judge.
In the alternative, he wants an order dismissing the charge on the ground that it constitutes “double jeopardy “especially as the case of Ricky Tarfa, which he referred to as ‘a sister case’ before the same court, contains virtually all the allegations and particulars in this new case”.
The EFCC prosecutor, Mr Wahab Shittu, had described the allegations of bias as an attempt to frustrate the trial.
He said the claims were contentious and should not be entertained by the court.
He also reminded the court of past attempts by the defence team to stall trial and concluded that the allegations of bias are speculative.
Mr Shittu had also argued that there was no way the matter involving Mr Ricky Tarfa can influence Justice Nganjiwa’s matter before the court.
He urged the court to take judicial notice of the fact that Justice Nganjiwa is not on a joint trial with Mr Tarfa in the other case neither is he a witness in the matter.
But Justice Akintoye today decided to hands off the matter. She urged the parties to find out from the court registrar the new judge to whom the case has been re-assigned.