By Andrew Onyejuruuwa
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has washed his hands off the suit filed by Mr. Rochas Okorocha, the Imo State governor, urging the Court to grant an order compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue him a Certificate of Return as the Senator-elect for Imo West Senatorial District. Justice Taiwo consequently returned the case file to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati for reassignment to another judge.
Justice Taiwo’s decision Newsbitsng.com learnt followed allegations of bias made against him by the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 National Assembly elections, Hon. Jones Chukwudi Onyeriri and that of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA); Senator Osita Izunaso. Mr. Onyeriri in his petition addressed to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati, which was dated April 8, 2019, asked the judge to disqualify himself from the suit.
The petition, which was signed by Onyeriri demanded that the judge should withdraw from the matter because of his utterances in which he “clearly prejudged the substantive issues that will be resolved in this matter and clearly showed he has taken sides with the Okorocha of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
In an affidavit deposed on their behalf by a lawyer, Chijioke Nzekwe, both men stated that Justice Taiwo on Friday told counsel to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Wendy Kuku that the commission was responsible for the problems in the election. Mr. Nzekwe further averred that “The Judge went further to say that he has read through the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and found nothing therein that robs him of the jurisdiction to hear his suit.’
They statement added, “That this pronouncement shocked all the counsel who was present in court and even members of the public and journalists who were in the gallery because 2nd and 3rd defendant (INEC and Onyeriri) have Notices of Preliminary Objection challenging the jurisdiction of the Court to hear this matter.” At the resumed hearing of the matter, Justice Taiwo announced his decision to rescue himself from adjudicating on the matter based on allegations of bias against him. He further announced that the case file will be returned to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati for re-assignment to another judge.
Okorocha allegedly won in the February 23 Imo West senatorial election on the platform of the APC. But Professor Ibeawuchi Innocent, the INEC Returning Officer at the election told the whole world that after holding him hostage and threatening his life, Okorocha forced him to declare him winner under duress. In view of that, Okorocha was however not presented with a Certificate of return by INEC as his name was not listed among the senators-elect who were presented with their certificates of return.