John Tsoho, the judge presiding over the trial of the embattled leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, has returned the case file to Ibrahim Auta, chief justice of federal high court, for reassignment.
The judge stepped down after Kanu’s legal team led by Chuks Muoma, maintained in an application that the court was biased in its handling of the matter.
“We are only asking the court to hands off; my client has lost confidence in this court,” Muoma said.
In a new petition, which was submitted to the National Judicial Council (NJC), Mr. Kanu’s counsel, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, accused Justice Tsoho of “judicial rascality” and called for an investigation by the council.
The petition, which was made available to journalists in Abuja on Sunday, revealed that Mr. Kanu through his lawyer, Ejiofor, asked the council to investigate Mr. Tsoho for giving parallel judgements on the same request.
Muoma said any proceedings in the case, following the claim that a petition was written to the NJC to protest against the court, would stifle it.
He continued: “I understand that there is a letter to NJC, though I haven’t seen it and the CJ has replied saying that the matter will be investigated.”
“I would urge you that you transfer the matter; I would suggest that it be sent back to the CJ.”
In his reaction, the judge said:
“I have no interest in trying your matter and I will return it to the CJ, but I will condemn the attitude of that counsel. I do not care if you take your case to another planet.”
“Even if I am cleared of any bias by the NJC, I will not continue with this case.”
This is not the first time a judge will be withdrawing from the case of the embattled IPOB leader.
In December 2015, Kanu refused to take plea on a six-count charge of treason, importation of illegal good and possession of fire arms filed against him by the Department of State Services (DSS), saying he had it on good authority that Ahmed Mohammed, the trial judge, was biased.
This led to the stepping down of the first judge after Mr. Kanu said he had no confidence in him.
Mr. Kanu is facing treason charges brought by the Nigerian government for leading a separatist group. He has been in detention since October 2015.