Justice Olayinka Faji of the Federal High Court 1 in Ibadan on Wednesday adjourned hearing of a motion by two of the 22 bankers currently standing trial in the N8 billion mutilated currency scam to July 10 over the allegation of bias leveled against her.
The defence had moved the motion for the disqualification of the judge and stay of execution of his earlier ruling of June 19 wherein he denied bail to the accused persons. The accused’s counsel Olalekan Ojo’s position followed comments made in the ruling which he described as unwarranted.
Ojo, who is the counsel to the 2nd and 3rd (Olaniran Muniru Adeola and Toogun Kayode Philip has challenged the ruling on the grounds that Justice Faji had already indicated that the accused were guilty by his choice of words in the ruling.
Ojo filed a motion on Friday, seeking the judge’s disqualification and stay of execution of the ruling pending determination of his application. He said Justice Faji indicated in the ruling that she was biased.Trial of bank
Trial of bank officials in the eight billion naira Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) mutilated currency scam was on Friday stalled when accused counsel alleged that the judge was biased. The bank officials were being tried before the Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan. The Counsel to three of the accused persons, Mr Olalekan Ojo, said he had filed an application before the Court of Appeal challenging the integrity of the trial judge. Ojo said that Justice Olayinka Faji had in his ruling on bail applications delivered on June 19 showed that he had mindset on the five accused arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Ojo, particularly said it was prejudicial of the judge to have stated in his ruling that the evidence against his clients were strong even before the trial started. “Even before the trial, the ruling on the bail applications, which stated the accused persons were deeply involved in the case, had already condemned them. “When the court had already concluded on them even before witnesses are called, it shows that they cannot have a fair trial. “We can only have accelerated conviction and not accelerated trial. This is a constitutional issue that must be addressed,” he said. In view of this, Ojo said he had filed a Notice of Appeal at the appellate court requesting an order to transfer or assign the suit to another judge. He said that in the alternative, the request was for the Court of Appeal to order the trial judge to disqualify himself from hearing the charges against his clients. Mr Olayinka Bolanle, Counsel to Kolawole Babalola, an employee of the Central Bank of Nigeria, said he had also filed a an application at the appellate court challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit.
“I want to associate myself with the views of prejudicial pronouncements in the ruling and hence, I have filed an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court,” he said. In his response, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), Counsel to the EFCC, said he was taken aback by the applications coming the very morning slated for commencement of trial. “All processes ought to have been filed before this morning and I see this as a means to scuttle trial and sincerely, it can be frustrating,” Jacobs said. Faji, however, said that if counsel had given indication that his integrity was in doubt then he could not go on with the trial and must be concerned and cautious. “I do not see anything wrong in counsel’s applications because before the public, it is not the criminals that are on trial, but the judge. “For me, if two lawyers in their motions have grounds to say that trial cannot continue, I must in fairness hear their motion. “It will, therefore, be risky to continue until the Court of Appeal rules,” Faji said. He admonished parties to file and serve all pending motions before the court and adjourned till July 1 for hearing of motions. Three CBN staff, Kolawole Babalola, Olaniran Adeola and Togun Philip and two others, Ajuwon Bolade and Samuel Ogbeide, were among the 22 bank employees being prosecuted by the EFCC at the court. The 22 bank officials, including seven CBN employees, were alleged to have conspired to defraud the CBN of eight billion naira by returning into circulation mutilated currency meant to be destroyed. The EFCC said that the accused committed the offences between 2009 and August 2014 and thereby caused adversity to the country’s economy