The outgoing Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdul-Kafarati, has rejected the request by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for a change of judge in the fundamental rights cases filed by the immediate-past Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and a former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha.
The EFCC disclosed this in the separate motions it filed in respect of the two men’s cases which are currently before Justice Taiwo Taiwo in the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.
In the motions filed on July 2 and 3, the EFCC asked Justice Taiwo to recuse himself from the cases on the grounds of alleged bias.
The EFCC disclosed in the motions that it had to file the motion after the Chief Judge, in his reaction to its petition, advised the commission to file the motions.
The EFCC had in the said petition sent to the Chief Judge on May 21, 2019, accused Justice Taiwo of being biased against it.
The letter personally signed by the EFCC’s acting chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, was in protest against the ex parte orders made by Justice Taiwo on May 9 and 14, restraining the commission from continuing its investigations of certain corruption allegations against Saraki and Okorocha.
The EFCC requested in the petition the re-assignment of the two men’s cases and all other ones involving it in the judge’s docket to another judge of the court.
It also recalled in the petition how Justice Taiwo, out of alleged bias while sitting in the Ado-Ekiti Division of the court, gave rulings in favour of a former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose.
Okorocha and Saraki, in their separate letters to the Chief Judge, asked him to ignore the EFCC’s request for being baseless.
They defended the orders issued by the judge as justified in view of the circumstances of alleged harassment by the commission leading to their instituting the cases in which the judge issued the restraining orders.
The commission has now rehashed all the allegations in the motion filed before the judge.
As part of the grounds for calling on the judge to recuse himself from the cases, the commission, through its counsel, Mr. Ekene Iheanacho, stated, “His Lordship, while sitting in the Ekiti Judicial Division of the Federal High Court, had in two previous cases involving former governor of Ekiti State, Ayo Fayose, Attorney General of Ekiti State and officials of Ekiti State Government given orders/decisions wherein the 4th respondent/applicant’s statutory powers to investigate economic and financial crimes were curtailed and gagged contrary to the established principles by superior courts.”
The commission faulted the ex parte orders directing the respondents in the case, including the EFCC “to stay all actions in connection with the subject matter of this suit, to stay all actions in connection with the subject matter pending the determination of this suit.”
The commission said the orders had an indefinite lifespan “since no one can state when the main case can be determined.”
It added that the orders were in the nature of interlocutory injunction “which ordinarily requires the adverse party to be put on notice.”
It said: ”It is a well established legal principle that no court has the power to stop the investigative powers of the 4th respondent or any agency established under the laws to investigate crimes.”
On Thursday, Saraki’s legal team indicated their intention to oppose the application.
They said they needed time to respond to the motion.
The judge adjourned till September 27 for the hearing of the applications.