Alex Enumah in Abuja
The All Progressive Congress (APC) has petitioned a judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, over his decision to give accelerated hearing in a suit seeking disqualification of its governorship candidate in the forthcoming governorship election in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu.
Two chieftains of the APC, Hon. Momoh Abdul-Razak and Hon. Zibiri Muhizu, had dragged the APC’s candidate and deputy in the September 19, 2020 governorship election in Edo State to court over alleged perjury.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/ CS/758/2020, APC, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Audu Ganiyu and Osagie Ize-Iyamu are the first, second, third and fourth defendants respectively.
The plaintiffs asked the court to disqualify the deputy governorship candidate, Ganiyu, from participating in the forthcoming election on account of giving false information to INEC in aid of his qualification for the governorship poll slated for next month.
The plaintiffs in the suit filed on July 10, 2020, by their lawyer, Friday Nwosu, also accused Ganiyu of certificate forgery.
The court had in its last sitting while delivering ruling in an exparte motion, ordered that court processes and hearing notice be pasted at the entrance of Ize-Iyamu and his deputy in Benin City, Edo State.
The court also adjourned to August 24 for hearing in the substantive suit.
However, when the matter came up on Monday, Ize-Iyamu’s lawyer, Mr Roland Otaru (SAN), and that of APC, Ehiogie West-Idahosa, drew the attention of the court to the petition filed against the judge asking him to suspend proceedings in the matter pending the time the chief judge will give directive on the petition.
In the petition dated August 20, 2020 and signed by the Secretary of the Caretaker Committee, Senator John Akpanuduedehe, the party accused Justice Taiwo of moving faster in the hearing of the suit by granting abridgment of time to the plaintiffs in the matter when motion for same had not been moved.
APC alleged that from its findings, Justice Taiwo has a close relationship with Rivers State Governor, Mr Nyesom Wike, who is the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Campaign Council in the Edo gubernatorial poll.
The party alleged further that Governor Wike had openly boosted that he would do everything humanly possible to ensure that PDP wins the poll by influencing the disqualification of Ize-Iyamu through the court.
The party specifically alleged that on August 10, Justice Taiwo, on his own abridged the time allowed by law for the defendants to respond to an issue even when they (defendants) have not been served with the originating summons by fixing the matter for August 24 when motion on notice for abridgment of time had not been moved by plaintiffs.
“That even when the court granted exparte order for substituted service of the processes in suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/839/2020, the story all over Edo is that the APC’s candidate Pastor Ize-Iyamu has been disqualified by Justice Taiwo Taiwo.
“That the APC is worried that they have no chance of getting justice before Justice Taiwo Taiwo on account of his affinity to Governor Wike and the anxiety demonstrated by abridging the time for defendants to file processes when the motion to do so was still pending and some defendants had not been served with the originating summons,” it said.
The party accordingly prayed the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to withdraw the case from Justice Taiwo and reassigned it to another judge.
Responding, the judge said the issue of the petition should be left for the CJ being an administrative matter, adding that the new practice direction does not permit him to simply hands off from the matter.
When pressed further by Otaru that he must stay proceedings in view of the petition, Justice Taiwo drew the attention of the senior lawyer to the new National Judicial Council (NJC) directive to the effect that in a pre-election matter, no judge shall stop proceedings until otherwise directed by the council.
When the attempt to halt proceedings proved abortive, the defendants in the matter applied for adjournment to enable them react to issues raised in the suit and to also allow the plaintiffs move a motion on notice for the matter to be heard during vacation.
Meanwhile, the matter has been adjourned till September 3 for hearing of all pending motions.