By Alex Enumah
A suit seeking the disqualification of the All Progressives Congress (APC) governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and his running mate, Mr Audu Ganiyu, from the forthcoming election in Edo State, on Thursday, suffered a major setback following the withdrawal of trial judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, from the matter.
Justice Taiwo’s withdrawal was predicated on a petition against him by the APC, wherein he was accused of bias and fraternizing with Rivers State Governor, Mr Nyesom Wike, who is the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Campaign Council in the September 19 governorship election in Edo State.
Two chieftains of the APC, Momoh Abdul-Razak and Zibiri Muhizu, had dragged Ize-Iyamu and Ganiyu to court over alleged perjury.
In the suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/758/2020, the APC, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Ganiyu and Ize-Iyamu are the first, second, third and fourth defendants respectively.
The plaintiffs are asking 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.
However, hearing in the matter was last month stalled following a petition against the judge by the APC.
The party, in the petition, had prayed the judge to suspend further hearing in the matter pending the directive of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
Justice Taiwo had on August 24 declined to grant the prayer and rather adjourned till September 4, for hearing of all pending motions.
However, when the matter came up Thursday, Justice Taiwo in a short ruling recused himself from the matter on account of the petition against him, adding that he has to protect his integrity and that of the court.
“As judges and lawyers in the temple of justice, it is our duty to protect the integrity of the court and that of the judiciary.
“It was disturbing to receive a petition from a party in the suit seeking for the transfer of the case.
“The contents of the said petition are wicked and unsubstantiated. It is very disturbing that counsel would write this petition and even back it with an affidavit,” he said.
The judge further stated that it is not only coronavirus that has become a pandemic, but also the spate at which politicians write petitions against judges.
The judge said it was a matter of regret that a legal practitioner would have the effrontery to write a malicious, scandalous and outright blackmail against a judge, adding that with the petition questioning his integrity, he can no longer proceed with the case.
The judge subsequently remitted the case to the Chief Judge for reassignment to another judge.
The APC had, in a petition dated August 20, 2020, accused Justice Taiwo of moving faster in the hearing of the suit against Ize-Iyamu by granting abridgment of time to plaintiffs in the matter when motion for same had not been moved.
The petition signed by the National Secretary of the Caretaker Committee, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, had alleged that from its findings, Justice Taiwo has a close relationship with Wike.
The APC further claimed that Governor Wike had openly boasted that he would do everything humanly possible to ensure that PDP wins the poll by influencing the disqualification of Ize-Iyamu through the court.
APC had specifically alleged that on August 10, Justice Taiwo suo motu 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,” the party claimed.