Justice B.O. Quadri of the Federal High Court, Abuja on July 7, 2017 dismissed an application by a former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, seeking that his case file be returned to Justice Adeniyi Ademola, before whom he was earlier standing trial.
The Chief Judge, CJ of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta had re-assigned the case to Justice Quadri, shortly after Justice Ademola’s trial along with his wife and Joe Agi, SAN, commenced at a Federal Capital Territory High Court, for offences bordering on money laundering charges. They were however, discharged April 5, 2017 and his suspension lifted.
Lamido who is standing trial along with his sons – Aminu Sule Lamido, Mustapha Sule Lamido; Aminu Wada Abubakar, Bamaina Holdings Ltd and Speeds Intl Ltd, had on April 6, 2017 through his counsel, Offiong Offiong, SAN, written to the CJ, requesting for the transfer. He had also brought an application before Justice Quadri on May 24, 2017, arguing that “a trial de novo would cause undue hardship to the defendants, as the prosecution had already called 18 witnesses since the matter commenced in September 2015.”
Citing Section 36(4) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 98(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, Offiong further argued that “the CJ has exceeded his powers in transferring the case from one trial judge to another after witnesses had been called.”
Prosecution counsel, Chile Okoroma, however, argued that though the defence had applied to the CJ seeking transfer, “they made yet another application to the court, without awaiting feedback from the CJ”. According to him, in view of the initial step by the defence to cause the case to be re-assigned, the court could not now arrogate such powers to itself.
“Furthermore, the former trial judge, Justice Ademola and the lead counsel in the matter, Joe Agi, SAN, had jointly stood trial in a corruption case – a development that cast aspersions on the independence and integrity of the judge, and raised issues on the likelihood of bias,” Okoroma stressed.
In his ruling, Justice Quadri said: “In respect to the circumstances of this case, nowhere is it said in the ACJA that where the trial judge is unable to be present for proceeding in a matter, the CJ is constrained from re-assigning the case.
“At the time the case was transferred, Justice Ademola was not sitting. As it is, amendments have already been made to the charges, upon which the present application was made and argued in this court.”
He thereafter, dismissed the application, adding that, “the issue is resolved in favour of the prosecution”.
The defendants, thereafter, took their “not guilty” plea to the amended 43-count charge bordering on money laundering.
While fixing October 18 and 19, 2017 for the continuation of their trial, Justice Quadri, admitted Lamido to bail in the sum of N100 million with two sureties in like sum, who must landed property. The other defendants were granted bail in the sum of N50 million with two sureties each in like sum, who must be civil servants in any ministry from grade level 15 and above, who must present their tax clearance certificate for the last three years.
He said that sureties for Lamido must have landed property not encumbered and depose to an affidavit that they were willing to forfeit the property to the Federal Government should he breech his bail condition.
“The defendants must be remanded in prison custody, if they fail to perfect their bail conditions within two months from the day of arraignment,” the trial judge held.