Judge withdraws from Fani-Kayode’s case
Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court, Lagos, has withdrawn himself from further trying former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode.
Fani-Kayode and others are facing a N4.9 billion fraud charge filed against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In his ruling yesterday, the judge said having washed his hands off the case, he would return the case file to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, to re-assign it to another judge.
Justice Hassan directed Fani-Kayode and his co-defendants to go and await further directive from Justice Auta.
Fani-Kayode had, in an application, through his counsel, Mr. Norrison Quakers (SAN), accused the judge of being biased against him, stating that he wanted the judge to not only withdraw himself from the case but to transfer the matter to the Abuja division of the court.
Quakers had said his client was afraid that he would not get justice if Justice Hassan hears the case on the grounds that the judge once worked as a legal officer in the employment of the EFCC.
Quakers recalled that Justice Hassan, then a senior counsel with the EFCC, was the officer who drafted, filed and signed a charge marked FHC/L/523c/2008, leading to Fani-Kayode’s trial for alleged N100 million money laundering before Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of the same court.
He said though the EFCC vigorously prosecuted the case, he was, however, discharged and acquitted by Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia on July 1, 2015 after seven years of trial, a development, Quakers claimed, Justice Hassan was not happy about.
But the EFCC had filed a counter-affidavit, wherein it described Fani-Kayode’s application as a ploy to frustrate his trial and urged the judge to dismiss it.
The EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, had argued that no reasonable person who watched the proceedings during Fani-Kayode’s trial would say Justice Hassan was biased against him.
In his ruling yesterday, Justice Hassan upheld Oyedepo’s submission that he (the judge) was not biased.
The judge, however, said he considered it safe to withdraw himself from the case.