The cases filed by the immediate past Senate President, Bukola Saraki and a former Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, to challenge their corruption probes, are set to resume for hearing before Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja despite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s last month’s protest against the judge.
SUNDAY PUNCH can report that as of Saturday, there had been no communication from the court to counter the schedule of the cases to come up for hearing before Justice Taiwo on Monday (tomorrow).
The EFCC in a letter sent to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati, on May 21, accused Justice Taiwo of being biased against it.
The letter 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.
It requested in the letter the re-assignment of the two ex-governors’ cases and all other ones involving it in the judge’s docket to another judge of the court.
But court officials and some top officials of the EFCC, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed to SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday and Saturday that the one-month-old request by the commission had yet to be acted on by the Chief Judge of the court.
“To the best of my knowledge, there has been no communication from the Chief Judge on the commission’s request. But it will be hasty to conclude that the Chief Judge has dismissed the commission’s request,” a top official of the commission told one of our correspondents on Saturday.
A court official had informed SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday that “the cases are still with Justice Taiwo.”
Responding to SUNDAY PUNCH’s request to comment on the issue on Saturday, spokesperson for the EFCC, Mr Tony Orilade, said in a text message he sent to our correspondent.
“As of today, I have no information, but give me till Monday, I shall get back to you.”
Magu, in his letter to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, said, “Your Lordship, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission is the 4th defendant in the respective cases stated above which are pending before Honourable Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo of your lordship’s court.
“The commission respectfully requests your lordship to re-assign the above-stated cases and all other cases pending before Honourable Justice O. Taiwo, in which it is involved, to other judges of your Lordship’s court.
“This application has become very necessary because of the commission’s lack of confidence in his Lordship’s impartiality to dispense justice in any matter concerning it.”
Magu stated that against established legal principle validated by judicial pronouncements, Justice Taiwo, in the fundamental rights enforcement suits filed by Saraki and Okorocha, “restrained the commission, among others, from performing its statutory function of investigating them pending the determination of originating motions on notice.”
Magu stated in the letter that the EFCC was conducting an investigation into the “allegations of corrupt practices by the Senate President, Olubukola Saraki, whilst as the Executive Governor of Kwara State and also as the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
He added, “It (EFCC) is also investigating Owelle Rochas Okorocha, the outgoing (former) Governor of Imo State for the same allegations of corrupt practices as the governor of the state”.
The EFCC chairman recalled that Justice Taiwo in the past “demonstrated obvious bias against the commission” in a matter involving the former Ekiti State governor, Ayodele Fayose.
He said, “On June 24, 2016, the EFCC applied and secured an interim freezing order from the Federal High Court, Lagos Judicial Division, wherein his Lordship, Hon. Justice M. B. ldris ordered the Manager of Zenith Bank Plc to freeze bank accounts numbers 1003126654 and 9013074033 among others operated by Mr Ayodele Foyose pending the investigation and a possible prosecution of the criminal case involving the accounts.
“Your Lordship, Mr Ayodele Fayose subsequently instituted another suit in suit number. FHC/AD/15/2016 at the Federal High Court, Ado Ekiti Judicial Division, praying the court for an order directing the EFCC and Zenith Bank Plc to unfreeze and make operational the said accounts.
“Shockingly, His Lordship. Honourable Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo, despite being aware of the pendency of the mower before Honourable Justice M.B. ldris, and his said order which were duly brought to his notice, proceeded to set it aside, thereby sitting as an appellate court over the decision of a court of coordinate jurisdiction.”
Magu added, “Though the commission is not by any means positing that His Lordship, Honourable Justice Taiwo O. Taiwo, should always decide cases in its favour, even when it does not deserve it, the trend of His Lordship shows unbridled bias against it, which has made it difficult for it to believe in His Lordship’s impartiality.”
Other respondents in both cases and who are affected by Justice Taiwo’s restraining orders were the Attorney General of the Federation, the Department of State Services, the Inspector-General of Police, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission and the Code of Conduct Bureau. [PUNCH]