Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, disqualified himself from presiding over the trial of detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.
Also the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, yesterday lashed out at President Muhammadu Buhari for supporting an autonomy for Palestine while opposing the realisation of Biafran republic at home saying that it is unfortunate that Buhari is still confused about the reasons for the struggle for Biafra.
Kanu who has been in detention since October 14, 2015, is answering to a six-count treason charge alongside two other pro-Biafra agitators, David Nwawusi and Benjamin Madubugwu.
At the resumed sitting on the matter, Justice Tsoho who earlier denied the defendants bail, premised his decision to hands-off the matter on a petition pending against him before the National Judicial Council, NJC.
The judge, in a bench ruling, held that it was in the best interest of justice that he stepped aside from the trial, considering the weight of allegations the defendants levelled against him before the NJC. Kanu and his co-accused persons had in a joint petition they filed through their lawyer, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, told the NJC that Justice Tsoho indulged in act of “judicial rascality”, by delivering conflicting rulings on the same subject matter.
They alleged that the judge summarily reversed his previous ruling that barred the Federal Government from masking all the witnesses billed to testify against them.
They maintained that Justice Tsoho, having ruled on the issue, ought not to have reversed himself and granted the same application, an action they said should have been taken by the appellate court. More so, the defendants, alleged that the trial judge denied them fair hearing on the day he gave the prosecution the nod to produce “masquerades” to testify against them.
Kanu told the NJC that Justice Tsoho frustrated efforts by his lawyers to obtain copies of his rulings, as well as the record of proceedings of the court. He said that it took the intervention of the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Abuja, Justice Ibrahim Auta before the rulings and record of proceedings in the matter was released to him.
He noted that section 36(7) of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, allows a court or tribunal only seven days to keep its record in a criminal trial. “That on the face of the application to stay further proceedings in the matter, pending the outcome of the appeal challenging the court’s variation of its order, the court would have ordinarily been spurred to be expeditious in its attention to our request. “Rather, his lordship remained firm in his resolve to frustrate the defence,” the petitioners added.
The IPOB leader further told the judicial body that Justice Tsoho declined to allow his lead counsel, Muoma, SAN, to adumbrate his written brief in support of application for stay of proceedings in the matter, even when rules of the court allowed for 20 minutes of oral argument.
Meantime, while distancing himself from the trial of the defendants on Monday, Justice Tsoho, stressed that he has no personal interest in their case. He noted that though he would have ordinarily suspended hearing on the matter to await decision of the NJC, “however, since the defendants have said that they lack confidence in the court,
I have no option than to hands-off the case. “This court is minded not to prolong the issue especially since the defendants did not state the court which they want the matter to be transferred to.
Tsoho hands-off trial
“I have disqualified myself and will return the case-file back to the CJ for re-assignment to another judge. “This shall be the position of this court, even if the NJC decides otherwise,” Justice Tsoho held. Remarkably, this is the second judge of the same high court to disqualify himself from trial of the defendants.
It will be recalled that the first judge the case-file was assigned to, Justice A. R. Mohammed had in a bench ruling he delivered on December 23, 2015, also distanced himself from the matter. Specifically, the trio had sequel to their petition dated April 26 and an accompanied verifying affidavit on oath dated May 24, asked Justice Tsoho to temporarily hands-off their trial and wait the decision of the NJC. The three defendants had opposed FG’s application for secret trial, even as they queried the propriety of the court allowing “masquerades” to testify against them. Kanu was alleged to have illegally smuggled radio transmitters into Nigeria, which he used to disseminate “hate broadcasts”, encouraging the “secession of the Republic of Biafra”, from Nigeria.
The accused persons however pleaded not guilty to the charge on January 20, even as the court ordered their remand at Kuje prison in Abuja. MASSOB slams FG over UN’s affirmation Meantime,the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, yesterday lashed out at President Muhammadu Buhari for supporting an autonomy for Palestine while opposing the realisation of Biafran republic at home. IPOB however said that even the colonial masters denied Nigeria independence initially but later succumbed to the wishes of the people, pointing out that it was optimistic that the realisation of Biafra was a matter of time.
In a statement signed by IPOB’s Spokesman, Emma Powerful, the group acknowledge that although Buhari was under serious pressure over Biafra, he appeared confused about the reasons why Igbo wanted to leave Nigeria.
According to IPOB, “Buhari made a speech in the United Nations that small nations should be granted autonomy and that Palestine should be created out of Israel but back home in Nigeria, he ordered the killing of unarmed civilians and members of IPOB who were using peaceful means to ask for their freedom.” The statement read in part, “It is unfortunate that Mr President is still confused about the reasons for the struggle for Biafra and has continued to deceive the general public about the whole thing.
“The statement credited to him in far- away United States of America, USA, proves that he is undergoing serious pressure about Biafra. “Meanwhile, IPOB members and Biafrans worldwide are not deterred about the statement made by Buhari because Biafra has come to stay whether referendum or not.
“IPOB would want to know whether Buhari would go against a resolution for a referendum on Biafra if the United Nations approved it. “The people of former Eastern Region declared Biafra republic in 1967 and fought a war for the new republic through their leaders including Chief Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and Philip Effiong. They never expected a referendum before the declaration of Biafra but they… fought the war without looking backwards.
“Also, the president is jittery over the popularity of Biafra internationally and he cannot stop it because Biafra is the will of the people in the whole South- South and South East of Nigeria. “In similar situations, around the world a president who is clueless on such matters like this always make such statement because he wouldn’t want the citizens to blame him.
It happened during the colonial masters in Nigeria but they later succumbed to the pressures.”