Citing reports of N2 billion bribery allegations against him, a Federal High Court Judge, Justice Abdulkadir Kafarati, yesterday declined to give judgment in the case of enforcement of fundamental human rights instituted before him by Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki.
Justice Kafarati specifically disclosed that he declined to go further on the case because an online medium made a wild allegation against him with respect to the case.
He told lawyers in the matter that the online medium had, in its publication, alleged that he was compromised to the tune of N2 billion by Saraki to give judgment in his favour.
“In the instance case, I am already caught in between two devils because any attempt to give the judgment in this matter, even though it is ready for today, but, the attempt can be used by the wicked people to justify their malicious publication against my person. In view of this grievous allegation, even though my judgment in the matter is ready, I have no option than to disqualify myself from proceeding to deliver the judgment, because the malicious publication had already polluted the minds of the general publication”.
“So, I, hereby, disqualify myself from this case and the case file shall be returned to the Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta, for possible re- assignment to another Judge”.
Saraki had filed a legal action at the Federal High Court to seek enforcement of his fundamental human rights to a fair hearing and trial on the falsification of assets criminal charges brought against him by the Federal Government at the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). Saraki, through his lawyer, Mr. Raphael Oluyede, claimed in the suit that he would not get justice from the CCT chairman, Mr. Danladi Umar, who is being investigated by EFCC and, who is being used by the same EFCC and its lawyer to prosecute him.
Meanwhile, senior lawyers yesterday reacted to Justice Kafarati’s dramatic withdrawal from Saraki’s case.
Speaking on the development, Chief Robert Clarke (SAN) said Justice Kafarati’s withdrawal from the case was an honourable step to retain public confidence in the judiciary. He said: “A judge has an absolute discretion to withdraw from a case if there are insinuations coming from either the media or the accused himself challenging his right to give an honest opinion on a matter before him. Definitely, I agree with him that there had been insinuations made about him. So, I see nothing wrong in that.”
On his part, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said: “A judge who is accused, rightly or wrongly, of bias in a case should withdraw from that case honourably. and when a judge with a strong character like Kafarati feels that his name is unnecessarily being maligned in the media, I believe he was right to have voluntarily withdrawn from it.”
Mr. Emeka Etiaba (SAN), however, said: “If the parties in a suit have reasonable suspicion that a judge has been compromised, the honourable thing for the judge to do is to withdraw. But, I wouldn’t know what happened in this case.
In its reaction, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) called for speedy and fair trial of the Senate President by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT).
Addressing newsmen yesterday in Lagos, President of the organisation, Igho Akeregha, applauded the present administration for the courage in bringing to the Courts, one of its principal actors, the senate president, who is the number three citizen, after the President and Vice President.
He, however, urged the Courts to “maintain the accepted standards within the judiciary in handling all matters including the allegation against Senate President”