By Chris Nomjov
A Federal High Court in Bauchi has fixed March 17 for the suit filed by a former Governor of Adamawa State, Admiral Murtala Nyako, challenging his impeachment by the state House of Assembly last year, it was learnt
The Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, had transferred the suit to Bauchi after about three weeks of withdrawing the case file from the court’s division in Yola, where hearing had been concluded and judgment was scheduled to be delivered on February 12.
It is still unclear what direction the proceedings scheduled for March 17 before the new judge, Justice M.G. Umar, will take. It is also not known whether hearing in the matter, which had already been scheduled for judgment, would start afresh or Justice Umar would proceed to deliver the judgment he did not prepare.
The former governor had, in November 2014, filed the fundamental rights enforcement suit in the Yola Division of the Federal High Court, alleging that he was denied fair hearing in the proceedings of the impeachment panel which recommended his removal from office to the state House of Assembly in July 2014.
Justice Auta had, shortly after the matter was adjourned for judgment, withdrawn the file from the trial judge in Yola, Justice Bilikisu Aliyu, on the grounds that there was a petition addressed to his office concerning the suit.
It was learnt that Justice Auta had last week directed the transfer of the matter to Bauchi, a decision which coincided with the filing of a fresh suit by Nyako, asking for an order compelling the CJ to immediately release the file to Justice Aliyu to deliver the judgment. Nyako’s legal team had indicated interest to resist the transfer of the case to Bauchi Division of the court.
Incidentally, the Yola Division of the Court of Appeal which is sitting in Abuja has fixed Tuesday for ruling on an application filed by the Chief Judge of Adamawa State, Justice Ishaya Banu, with respect to the case before the Federal High Court.
Justice Banu had sought to be joined as a defendant in the suit before the Federal High Court but his application was dismissed by Justice Aliyu. He then proceeded to the Court of Appeal to challenge the decision of the trial court.
The Court of Appeal is to on March 10, rule on his application for the abridgement of time within which to compile records and a stay of proceedings at the lower court.
Earlier, Nyako, through his lawyer, Mr. Olukoya Ogungbeje, had accused Justice Auta of seizing the case file to stop the delivery of judgment in the case by Justice Aliyu.
Ogungbeje had said Justice Aliyu heard all parties in the suit on February 2, 2015 and adjourned till February 12 for judgment, only for Justice Auta to “seize the file” before the judgment day.
But the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court, Mrs. Rosemary Oghoghorie, had in a reaction to the allegation, insisted that the case file was not seized but that the Chief Judge only “called for” it to clear a petition dated February 3, 2014 written to his office by a party in the suit.
“Until the petition is treated, the file will not be released. The judge handling the case has not responded to the petition and until that is done, the case file will not be released. That is the right procedure to follow,” Oghoghorie said.
She added that another twist had been introduced to the case with a stay of proceedings granted by the Court of Appeal.
“The stay of proceedings supersedes everything. So, even if the CJ releases the file today, he cannot ask the judge to go on. But I want to tell you that the CJ has not seized the file, he has not interfered with the case,” she added.
It is not known whether Justice Auta’s decision to transfer the case to Bauchi had anything to do with the outcome of the petition.
Meanwhile, Ogungbeje in a statement on Sunday, called on Nigerians to condemn the “judicial politics” characterising the handling of the suit by the Federal High Court Chief Judge.
He said, “We also strongly seize this medium once again to call on the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the National Judicial Council to urgently call Justice Ibrahim Auta to order to immediately return the case file back to the Federal High Court, Yola, for judgment.”