Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal High Court, Gudu, Abuja, who presided over the alleged $620,000 bribery suit brought against a member of the House of Representatives, Farouk Lawan, withdrew from the case on Tuesday.
The judge ordered that the suit be returned to the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Ibrahim Bukar.
Mr. Lawan, a former Chairman of the House Ad-hoc Committee on Fule Subsidy Regime, and the Secretary of the Committee, Boniface Emenalo, are being prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission, for receiving the bribe from a businessman, Femi Otedola.
The suit commenced on February 2013 when Messrs. Lawan and Emenalo, were arraigned on a seven-count charge.
Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi had presided over the suit until his elevation to the Court of Appeal, the reason it was assigned to Mrs. Banjoko.
The lawmaker, through his counsel, Mike Ozekhome, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, had on October 29, filed an application demanding the withdrawal of Mrs. Banjoko, but withdrew it.
Besides, Mr. Lawan personally petitioned the FCT Chief Judge, alleging that the judge may likely be bias because of her close relationship with Mr. Otedola, who is the accuser and a witness in the case.
Despite the withdrawal of the application by Mr. Lawan, the judge still quit, saying that though Mr. Bukar had cleared her of the allegation against her by the lawmaker, Mrs. Banjoko said it was a “scandalous challenge” on her integrity.
She said, “In my 17 years on the bench, six years and as a magistrate and 11 years as a judge, I have never been confronted with a scandalous challenge of my integrity.”
Meanwhile on Tuesday, Mr. Ozekhome, who withdrew the application he filed on behalf of his client, pleaded with the judge on Tuesday to ignore the wrong impression it might have created.
The prosecuting counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, who also apologised on behalf of Mr. Lawan, asked Mrs. Banjoko, to continue to handle the case, but the judge declined.
While denying that she was not in any way close to Mr. Otedola, the judge insisted she would stay away from the case because “justice is rooted in confidence.” She also stated that the lawmaker had already exhibited lack of confidence in her.
According to her, “In the prevailing circumstances, I do find it difficult to continue this case. This case is returned to the honourable Chief Judge for re-assignment.”