Justice Ahmed Mohammed, a judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja, has announced his withdrawal from the case of RevolutionNow convener Omoyele Sowore.
According to YaahooJournalist the judge made known his decision at the hearing of Sowore’s application for the enforcement of his rights on Monday.
Justice Mohammed who sought the opinion of counsels in the matter said he had been accused of receiving a bribe in a certain matter by Sahara Reporters, an online platform owned by the defendant.
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“When the registrar called me and said this file was assigned to me and she named the parties, I asked if the chief judge was around but he already travelled for Christmas,” he said.
“My conscience is telling me I should not take the matter but subject to what you would say or think.
“My ground is nothing other than the applicant is the publisher of Sahara Reporters. Sometime in 2016, the same outlet accused me of taking money in a matter to compromise the cause of justice and I returned the case file to the then CJ.”
Justice Mohammed said the case file was later returned to him after the intervention of Rotimi Jacobs and J.B Daudu, both senior advocates of Nigeria (SAN) involved in the matter.
However, the judge said the accusation came up again in June 2019
“Again, this year, around June, the same paper accused me of taking money in the same case. so, I had to hands-off again and it was reassigned to Honourable Justice Abang,” he said.
“The case may go either way. It may succeed, it may fail. If my orders are not favourable to him, it would be seen as vengeful, or, while proceedings are ongoing, applicants will be apprehensive about what judgment I would give.”
In his response, counsel to Sowore, Femi Falana, said he was not aware of the publications.
Falana referred the court to the case of MKO Abiola VS FRN in 1995 wherein the supreme court disqualified eight justices from hearing any of the appeals arising from Abiola’s case.
He recalled that The Concord newspaper which Abiola was the publisher had written a story concerning the eight justices that led to the institution of a libel suit against the newspaper.
Sowore’s lawyer said a unanimous decision was reached by the apex court that those eight justices should recuse themselves in the interest of justice.
The human rights lawyer, therefore, asked the judge to recuse himself from Sowore’s trial.
“We are of the humble view that the case be sent back to the CJ for reassignment,” he said.
On his part, the counsel to the Department of State Services (DSS), Godwin Agbadua, did not take a position on whether or not the judge should recuse himself.
Counsel to the attorney-general of the federation (AGF) who is joined in the suit, Abdullahi Abubakar, said he would align himself with the discretion of the court.
Giving his ruling, the judge said: “Justice is rooted in confidence; that is to say, none of the parties should have any fear that he will not get justice before any particular court. It is my belief that the only fair, just and proper cause to take in the circumstance of this case is to recuse myself from taking this matter.”
“Consequence of the above development, this matter is remitted back to the chief judge for reassignment to another judge.”
The secret police have held Sowore in the custody despite a subsisting court order for his release.