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Court hears application to recuse from Innoson case Jan. 26 


Innoson Nnewi

Innoson Nnewi

Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court, Lagos yesterday fixed January 26, next year to hear an application asking it to recuse itself from a N2.4 billion suit against Innoson Nigeria Limited over falsification of shipping document.

In the four-count charge No. FHC/L/565C/1, the accused are listed as Innoson Nig. Ltd, Innocent Chukwuma, Charles Chukwu, Maximian Chukwura, Mitsui Osk Lines ‘C’ and Anajekwu Sunny.

When the case was called yesterday, the prosecutor, Mr. J.I Ajakaiye, sought to withdraw a counter-affidavit and written address he had filed, on the ground that he had fresh applications.

Defence counsel did not oppose this prayer, but counsel to the first accused, Chief George Uwechue (SAN), informed the court that he was yet to respond to the application.

Meanwhile, another defence counsel, Mr. Nnabueze Mbadugha, in his response, reminded the court that there was already a pending application before it, asking it to recuse itself from the case.

He argued that once there is such application, no further action is required to be taken by the court, which is only expected to step aside.

According to him, once the partiality of a court has been questioned, it offends the sensibilities of fairness and justice for the court to continue to entertain further proceedings.

Quoting the Latin maxim, Nemo judex in causa sua, Mbadugha submitted that it was a serious error for the Judge to seek to entertain applications in respect of the same case, because one cannot be a judge in his own case.He, therefore, urged the court to recuse itself from taking further steps in the case.

In a short ruling, Justice Saidu held that defence counsel had not moved any application before him, urging him to disqualify himself.The Judge added that he would not “chicken out” of the suit simply because a party says so, but will rather wait for an application to be moved in that respect.

He held: “It is the duty of the court to rule on an application after it has been heard and not to chicken out because a party does not want it to preside over it.

“Judges are not to submit to intimidation of parties. I am yet to hear any such application before me and so, I will not recuse myself now until I hear the application.” 

The court then fixed January 26, next year for hearing.In the charge, the accused were alleged to have conspired to commit the offence on October 10, 2013 at Apapa Wharf.

The prosecution alleged that the accused falsified shipping documents, which they deposited with Guaranty Trust Bank Plc as collateral for the sum of N2.4 billion loan facility granted Innoson Nigeria Limited.

The shipping document was also said to have been falsely presented as genuine and with intent to defraud, in order to clear goods worth N2.4 billion.

According to the charge, the offence contravened the provisions of Sections 1(2) (c), and 3(6) of the Miscellaneous Offence Act, Cap M17, Laws of the Federation, 2004.

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