Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday fixed January 26, 2017, to hear an application to `recuse’ himself from a N2.4 billion suit against Innosson Nig. Ltd.
Innosson Nig. Ltd, Innocent Chukwuma , Charles Chukwuma Maximian Chukwuma, Mitsui Osk Lines `C’ and Anajekwu Sunny are facing trial before the court on charges bordering on falsification of shipping document.
At the resumed hearing of the case, the prosecutor, Mr J.I Ajakaiye, sought to withdraw a counter affidavit and written address he had filed, on the ground that he had fresh applications.
This prayer was not opposed by the defence team.
However, Nnabueze Mbadugha, one of the counsel, reminded the court that there was a pending application for the judge to disqualify himself from the matter.
He argued that “once there is such application, no further action is required to be taken by the judge, who is only expected to step aside.’’
According to him, once the neutrality of a court has been questioned, it offends the sensibilities of fairness and justice for the court to continue to entertain further proceedings.
Quoting the Latin maxim, “Nemo judex in causa sua,” Mr. Mbadugha submitted that it was a serious error for the judge to seek to entertain applications in respect of the same case.
According to him, the said Latin maxim simply postulates that one cannot be a judge in his own case.
He, therefore, urged the court to recuse itself from taking further steps in the case.
In a short ruling, Mr. Saidu held that the defence counsel had not moved any application before him urging him to disqualify himself from the case.
The judge said that he would not “chicken out’’ of the suit simply because a party says so, but would rather wait for an application to be moved in that respect.
He held, “It is the duty of the court to rule on an application after it has been heard and not to chicken out because a party does not want it to preside over it.
“Judges are not to submit to intimidation of parties; I am yet to hear any such application before me and so, I will not recuse myself now, until I hear the application,” the Judge said.
The court then fixed January 26 for hearing.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have conspired to commit the offence on October 10, 2013 at Apapa Wharf.
The prosecution alleged that the accused falsified shipping documents, which they deposited with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc as collateral for the sum of N2.4 billion.
The loan facility was granted Innosson Nig. Ltd but the shipping documents were discovered to have been falsely presented as genuine with intent to defraud in order to clear the N2.4 billion goods.
According to the charge, the offence contravened the provisions of sections 1(2) (c), and 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offence Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation 2004.