Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Federal High Court in Abuja hearing the case of alleged treason and felony against the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, has finally given in to the demands by his lawyer that the court recuse itself from the case following various accusations of bias and confidence levied against the court.
The trial judge, Justice John Tsoho, monday announced that the court was withdrawing from the case because of a petition against him pending before the National Judicial Council (NJC).
Consequently, the judge said he was returning the case file to the Chief Judge to be reassigned to another judge.
When the case was called up yesterday, Kanu’s counsel, Chuks Muoma, informed the court about a petition before the NJC against his rulings.
In the petition, the defendants are requesting that the judge be investigated over what they alleged to be conflicting rulings which Justice Tsoho gave on a motion for the protection of witnesses to be called by the prosecution.
Kanu, in the petition written on his behalf by one Ifeanyi Ejiofor, accused Tsoho of breaching ‘Judicial Oath’ by taking an oral application from the federal government on a matter he had already ruled on.
Mouma, further advised that in the interest of justice to all parties, the judge should return the matter to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
He said: “We are only asking the court to hand off the case because my client has lost confidence in this court.
“Following the development, all we are asking this court to do is to hand off the case pending the outcome of the NJC investigation.
“It would not be proper for the court to continue with this matter when investigation is ongoing. So in the interest of justice, we are asking the court to hand off the case.
“I would urge the court to transfer the matter, and I would also suggest that it be sent back to the CJ.”
Mouma claimed that the court was acting in line with the suggestion of President Muhammadu Buhari that Kanu was not going to be released under any circumstance.
Responding, the trial judge, in a short ruling, held that he has no interest in trying the matter, and as such, has no reason to be bias towards the defendants or breach judicial oath.
He however berated Kanu’s counsel for acting in an unprofessional manner, adding that as a member of the inner bar, the counsel has a responsibility to educate the younger counsel.
“You have an application and on what would I have ruled to transfer the matter?” Tsoho asked.
Justice Tsoho further held that since the defence counsel no longer have confidence in the way the court has handled the case, “it is only reasonable for the court to disqualify itself from further hearing the matter and went on to pronounce his desire to discontinue the case.
“Accordingly, this case is hereby forwarded to the Chief Judge for further re-assignment,” he said.
Kanu and two others, David Nwawusi and Benjamin Madubugwu, are being prosecuted before the court on a six-count charge of treasonable felony, unlawful possession of firearms and other offences bordering on their agitation for secession of the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria.
Before this latest move, Kanu and his co-accused, at the last adjournment, had filed a motion requesting Justice Tsoho to disqualify him from the matter.
They had alleged bias in the manner he has so far presided over the trial.
The motion, though was not moved, the appearance of a new counsel, Amobi Nzelu, for the second defendant, Benjamin Madubugwu, forced the court to adjourned to yesterday as to provide him time to study the case file and arrive at a decision whether or not to alien with the motion seeking to disqualify the judge.
Also, the IPOB leader had earlier filed a similar motion against Justice Ahmed Mohammed, following which the case was transferred to Justice Tsoho.