By Vivian Okejeme, Abuja
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday, withdrawn from handling the suit challenging the qualification of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the governorship candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC ) in the September 19, gubernatorial election in Edo state.
Justice Taiwo’s final withdrawal from the case is following a second petition filed against him by one of the APC’s counsel.
In an emotion laden voice, the judge regretted that his integrity has been maliciously called to question in the petitions.
“As Judges and lawyers in the temple of justice, it is our duty to protect the integrity of the court and that of the judiciary.
“It was disturbing to receive a petition from a party in the suit seeking for the transfer of the case.
“The contents of the said petition are wicked and unsubstantiated. It is very disturbing that counsel would write this petition and even back it with an affidavit.
“It is not only Corona Virus that has become a pandemic, the spate at which politicians write petitions against judges should be declared a pandemic and should be checked.
“Unfortunately judges cannot respond to petitions against them through the media
“I do not for the record have any affiliation, personal or political with any of the parties in this case.”
When the matter was called up and counsel in the suit announced their appearances for proceedings to begin, Justice Taiiwo announced that he was no longer prepared to go ahead with the matter.
The Judge said it was a matter of regret that a legal practitioner would have effrontery to write a malicious, scandalous and outright blackmail against a Judge adding that with the petition questioning his integrity, he can no longer proceed with the case
Subsequently, he informed the parties that he had remitted the case to the Chief Judge for reassignment to another Judge.
In separate petition, the All Progressive Congress APC had raised strong opposition to the speedy hearing of the suit seeking disqualification of its governorship candidate from the election.
They prayed the Chief Judge of the Court, Justice John Tsoho to withdraw the suit from the presiding judge, Justice Taiwo.
In the petition dated August 20,/2020 by the National Secretary of the Caretaker Committee, Senator.John Akpanudoedehe, the party had accused Justice Taiwo of moving faster in the hearing of suit against Ize-Iyamu by granting abridgment of time to plaintiffs in the matter when motion for same had not been moved.
APC had alleged that from its findings, Justice Taiwo has a close relationship with Rivers state governor Mr Nyesom Wike, the Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party PDP Campaign Council in the Edo gubernatorial poll.
The party had alleged further that governor Wike had openly boasted that he would do everything humanly possible to ensure that PDP win the poll by influencing the disqualification of Ize-Iyamu through the court.
APC had specifically alleged that on August 10, Justice Taiwo suo motu abridged the time allowed by law for the defendants to respond to an issue even when they (defendants) have not been served with the originating summons by fixing the matter for August 24 when motion on notice for abridgment of time had not been moved by plaintiffs.
“That even when the Hon court granted exparte order for substituted service of the processes in suit no. FHC/ABJ/CS/839/2020, the story all over Edo is that the APC.candidate Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu has been disqualified by Justice Taiwo Taiwo
“ That the APC is worried that they have no chance of getting Justice before Justice Taiwo Taiwo on account of his affinity to governor Wike and the anxiety demonstrated by abridging the time for defendants to file processes when the motion to do so was still pending and some defendants had not been served with the originating summons “
At the last time when the matter came up, counsel to Ize-Iyamu, Chief Roland Otaru SAN and that of APC Mr Ehiogie West-Idahosa had drawn the attention of Justice Taiwo to the petition and asked him to suspend proceedings pending the time, the chief judge will give directive on the petition.
Justice Taiwo however told them to leave the petition for the CJ to treat being an administrative matter, adding that the new practice direction does not permit him to simply hands off from the matter.
When pressed further by Otaru that he must stay proceedings in view of the petition, Justice Taiwo drew the attention of the senior lawyer to the new National Judicial Council (NJC) directive to the effect that in a pre-election matter, no judge shall stop proceedings until otherwise directed by the council.
When the attempt to halt proceedings proved abortive, defendants in the matter applied for adjournment to enable them react to issues raised in the suit and to also allow the plaintiffs move a motion on notice for the matter to b e heard during vacation.