A Federal High Court judge, E.S. Chukwu, on Tuesday withdrew from a suit seeking to compel the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, to vacate office following his defection from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Mr. Tambuwal had in October defected from the PDP – on whose platform he contested election into the House of Representatives in 2011 — to the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC.
A member of the House of Representatives, Abiodun Akinlade, had sued the speaker, seeking an order to declare his seat vacant.
Mr. Akindlade also prayed the court to issue an order for the Deputy Speaker, Emeka Ihedioha, to take over the position of speaker of the House of Representatives.
The matter was consequently assigned to Justice Chukwu.
But before the matter could be heard, Mr. Tambuwal filed a petition with the National Judicial Council, NJC, on November 30, challenging the assignment of the case to Mr. Chukwu.
The speaker had requested that the suit be transferred to a “neutral” judge because of the likelihood of bias that could prevent him from getting justice.
The petition reads in part, “My attention has been drawn to the above suit, which has been assigned to Court 8, presided over by Justice E. S.J. Chukwu, and we wish to make the following observations:
“Sometime in 2013, the said presiding judge, Justice E.S.J. Chukwu presided over the case of Peoples Democratic Party and 12 ORS VS. INEC & 4 ORS, wherein he made a judicial pronouncement, which has been interpreted by some, to the effect that there was no division in Peoples Democratic Party.
“The above decision of Justice Chukwu was heavily relied upon and cited severally in the case of Peoples Democratic Party, House of Representatives; the speaker of the House of Representatives & 52 ORS, suit No: FHC/ ABJ/CS/4/2014.
“Consequently, Justice A.F.A Ademola, relying on the said judgment of his brother, Justice Chukwu, even though the said suit before him had nothing to do with defection, ruled that there was no division within the Peoples Democratic Party.
“And as such, the defendants in that case, who are members of the House of Representatives, who have similar cases as mine, currently pending in the Federal High Court Abuja, were not protected by proviso to Section 68(1), (g) of the 1999 Constitution.
“He rested his decision on that earlier judgement of Justice Chukwu aforementioned. The said judgment of Justice A.F.A Ademola, is subject of four pending appeals at the Court of Appeal, Abuja Judicial Division.
“My Lord, similar suits were variously instituted by various parties and are pending before the Federal High Court No. 7, presided over by Justice A.R Mohammed and are at various stages of proceeding pending before Court 7, presided over by Justice A.R Mohammed.”
Tambuwal further averred he does not have confidence that Justice Chukwu will dispense justice in the new case since he had earlier “made a pronouncement on similar issue, in similar case, decided by him, which clearly shows that he has an iron cast judicial position or opinion in respect of suit No: FHC/ABJ/ CS/871/2014 concerning me, Sir, which has just been assigned to him.”
The speaker urged the President of the Federal High Court, Ibrahim Auta, to re-assign the suit to “a neutral judge who has not made any judicial pronouncement on the issue or made public, his own opinion on the issue at hand.”
However, when the matter came up Tuesday, Mr. Chukwu announced his withdrawal from the suit on the ground that a petition has been written against him.