Justice Taiwo Oladipupo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has withdrawn from a legal action challenging the qualification of Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu as the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC ) in the September 19. gubernatorial election in Edo State.
The judge opted out of the suit on Thursday, following the second petition filed against him by one of the lawyesr in the APC legal team.
Justice Taiwo, who almost broke into tears in the open court when he announced receipt of the second petition against him by a lawyer, regretted that his integrity has been maliciously called to question.
“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.”
He said it was disturbing to get such a petition from a party in the suit seeking for the transfer of the case.
He added, “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 Coronavirus 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.”
He told the crowd of lawyers and litigants in court that the petitioner from the Chamber of one of the senior lawyers present in court even went to the ridiculous extent of supporting the petition with affidavit.
Immediately after lawyers in the suit announced their appearances for proceedings to begin, Justice Taiiwo cut them short and announced that he was no longer prepared to go ahead with the matter.
He pointed out that it was a matter of regret that a fellow lawyer would have effrontery to write what he described as a malicious, scandalous and outright blackmail against a Judge of his level
Some of the senior lawyers in court tried to wash their hands clean and distance themselves from the petition, the Judge however stood his ground not to go ahead with the case.
The Judge subsequently remitted the case to the Chief Judge for reassignment to another Judge.
The All Progressive Congress APC had in a separate petition two weeks ago raised strong opposition to the speedy hearing of the suit seeking disqualification of its governorship candidate from the election.
APC in the strongly worded petition against Justice Taiwo prayed the Chief Judge of the Court, Justice John Tsoho to withdraw the suit from 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.
The plaintiffs, led by Hon. Momoh Abdul-Razak had through their lawyer, Sir Friday Nwosu, sued the APC, Ize-Iyamu, INEC and Audu Ganiyu praying for an order of court to stop Ize-Iyamu’s participation in the election on account of alleged ineligibility.
With the latest decision of the Judge, the suit against Ize-Iyamu has suffered a setback.