A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has dismissed an application asking it to hands off the trial of a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide, and two chieftains of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on allegations of laundering N650 million.
The application was filed by the two chieftains, a former Senator, Ayo Adeseun and Mrs. Olarenwaju Otiti.
On the last adjourned date of February 6, the lawyers to the two PDP leaders had moved their different applications, asking the judge to recuse himself from the suit.
They alleged a likelihood of bias, especially on the ground that the trial judge, Justice Muslim Hassan, had previously served as the head, legal unit of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before his appointment as a judge.
In a ruling delivered on the issue today, Justice Hassan held that “These applications are meant to harass, intimidate and blackmail the court; the court will not succumb to cheap blackmail.
”The judge noted that “As rightly submitted by the prosecution, at the time the defendants were investigated and subsequently charged before the Federal High Court, he had already been appointed a judge.
He continued, “I agree with learned counsel for the prosecution, that judges of superior courts of record, swear to an oath of allegiance to be just and fair, and cannot be disqualified from presiding over cases by mere allegations that the judge once worked in an organisation.”
The judge then dismissed the applications and following a request for adjournment, fixed April 18 for the continuation of trial.
The defendants were re-arraigned on January 16, 2018, on the amended charge.
They were alleged to have received monies from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
The money was said to be part of the $115 million allegedly disbursed by Alison-Madueke, to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election.