From Umar Dankano, Yola
The court of Appeal,Yola Division has quashed a judgment of conspiracy and fraud against Magistrate Shehu Mustapha as it referred back the case to the same Federal High court Yola for re-assigning and retrial afresh.
Presiding judge of the court, Justice Abdullahi Mahmoud Bayero ruled that the trial court (Federal High court Yola) acted wrongly in hearing and determining the case as at the time of judgment for lack of jurisdiction.
Justice Bayero declared that the elevation of the then trial judge in the case, Justice Bilkisu Aliyu to Court of Appeal made her lack the judicial capacity to entertain the suit as a judge of the trial court.
Bayero asserted that since Justice Bilkisu was elevated in June 2018 as a Justice of the Appeal Court in which she was shortly administered oath of office or sworn in .Since then she ceased to be a judge of the Federal High Court but that of Court of Appeal.
It could be recalled that the Federal High Court Yola under Justice Bilkisu Aliyu had in December 2019 sentenced former chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Adamawa state Branch, Barristar Esthon Binanu and Magistrate Shehu Mustapha to three (3) years imprisonment each for conspiracy and fraud.
Justice Aliyu then convicted the duo for stealing and defrauding 502 retired staff of the sterling Civil Engineering Nigeria limited in Adamawa of N67million in 2007 as charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 7 counts bordering on conspiracy and fraud.
Dissatisfied with the judgement,the duo proceeded to court of Appeal Yola demanding for setting aside the lower court ruling where in April 2020,in a unanimous decision Justice James Shehu Abiriyi resolved the issues in favour of the Appellants ordering the release of Barristar Esthon leaving Magistrate Shehu’s case behind to be determined at a later date.
However,on Wednesday as the Court of Appeal presided by Justice Bayero set aside the judgement of the lower court in favour of Magistrate Shehu’s case too ruling that, issue of jurisdiction was not challenged at the trial court but was raised before them at the Appeal court which it granted forthwith.
“The issue of jurisdiction of a court to adjudicate on a matter can be challenged at any stage of proceedings,and should be dealt with first before the consideration and the determination of other issues in the case”.Justice Bayero ruled