Trial of Nigerian judge accused of corruption suffers set back

Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, judge of the Federal High Court, Bayelsa Division. [Photo credit: Pulse.ng]
Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, judge of the Federal High Court, Bayelsa Division. [Photo credit: Pulse.ng]

Justice Adedayo Akintoye of an Igbosere High Court in Lagos on Wednesday removed himself from continuing to preside over the corruption case brought against Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa of the Federal High Court in Bayelsa by the anti-graft agency, EFCC.

Mr. Akintoye stepped aside from the case, due to an allegation of bias brought against her by Nganjiwa.

Mr. Akintoye returned the case file to the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Opeyemi Oke for reassignment.

After re-assignment of the case to another judge, the trial will most likely start afresh.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Mr. Nganjiwa is facing a $260,000 and N8.6 million (totalling N81.7m) corruption charge, brought against him by the EFCC.

The defendant had on November 13, through his counsel, Robert Clarke, asked the chief judge to transfer his case file to another judge for trial.

Mr. Clarke had during the proceeding, informed court that he wrote a letter dated November10, to the administrative judge, seeking transfer of the case to another judge.

He said he also filed an application, objecting to the trial of his client before Mr. Akintoye, noting that the judge could be biased in the case.

In the letter, Mr. Clarke said: “the trial judge is presiding over charge number LD/2544/16, which is between FRN and Rickey Tarfa.

“The facts of the charge against my client are substantially similar to the counts/facts of the charge against Tarfa.

“In essence, my lord, I am of the view that opinion formed by the learned trial judge as regards charge LD/2544/16 will invariably lead to same opinion in the information against my client.

“My lord, as it stands, fair trial in the eye of a reasonable man is likely to be tainted as there is likelihood of bias.

“Our main request is for this court to return the case file to the chief judge for purpose of re-assigning to another judge.”

According to him, the charge constitutes a double jeopardy against Mr. Nganjiwa, therefore, we seek a court order dismissing the charge.

Clarke said: “there is a sister case before this court containing virtually all the allegations and particulars in this new case.

“You cannot make up your mind in one particular case and change it in another case. We are not afraid that justice must be done, but justice must be seen to have been done.’’

In his response, the EFCC prosecutor, Wahab Shittu, described the application as an attempt to frustrate trial, adding that the application was contentious and should not be allowed.

He argued that there was no way the case involving Mr. Tarfa could influence the case at hand as no decision had been taken on it.

“The defence has not shown that your lordship has particular interest in the matter and that your lordship has no relation with the defendant.

“Your lordship has not exhibited any partisanship. The court is only exercising judicial powers in relation to the case.

“It is speculative to say that the judge should hands off. The circumstances are different. The particulars are different.

“There is no ground for the application from all parameters so this application is premature. Anybody alleging bias must provide all the particulars,” he said.

(NAN)


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