Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja Division, has disqualified himself from adjudicating in a suit filed by the Incorporated Trustee of Oron Union, Akwa Ibom State, against the Federal Government challenging the composition of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).
The union is challenging the nominations of Messrs Nsima Ekere and Frank George for appointment as the Managing Director and Commissioner in the board of NDDC respectively.
It also asked the court to stop further appointments into the board pending the outcome of the suit.
However, when the case came up on Tuesday for hearing, Justice Abang took his hands off the case and returned the case file to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, for reassignment to another Judge.
Abang stated that his decision was borne out of the fact that both the plaintiff and the fifth defendant (Nsima Ekere) are both from Oron community where coincidentally he hails from.
“Justice must not be seen to be done but it must be seen to have been manifestly done. Considering the fact that I am from the same community with both the plaintiff and the fifth defendant, it is only proper that I stay off from this case and remit the case back to the Chief Judge for re-assignment to another judge in the interest of justice”, he said.
At the last sitting, Abang had asked the from parties to the suit who were present in court whether he was qualified to preside over the case, considering that he was from the same community in dispute.
Although they all responded in affirmative, he said he had decided within himself not to go ahead with the case.
According to him, the case will continue when judges resume from their annual vacation and it is re assigned to another Judge.
But before ruling on self disqualification, the sixth defendant (Frank George) had written the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, asking that Abang disqualify himself from adjudicating on the matter on the ground that he was from Oron.
He stated that his decision was not to slight the judge but in the interest of fairness and justice.
In his reaction, Justice Abang said the party would have raised the issue during court proceedings rather than going to the extent of writing the Chief Judge.