A Lagos-based legal practitioner and human rights activist, Mr Kayode Adaramoye, has condemned the meeting between the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) Abdulrasheed Bawa, and a serving judge, Justice Christopher Balogun of a Lagos State High Court, sitting in Ikeja.
He said that he was left with no option but to echo his opinion on the subject after the anti-graft agency accepted responsibility for meeting the Chief Judge and was silent on the weighty allegation of meeting the judge in a response to This Day publication of Tuesday 19 April 2022, on the allegation.
He said this in a press release titled: “The Visitation of Abdulrasheed Bawa, Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) To The Lagos High Court Judge,” dated 5th May 2022.
He said the confirmation of the allegation raised by the newspaper and some online media has injured the principle of a fair hearing on the criminal trial of Nadabo Energy Limited, Mr Abubakar Ali Peters.
Adaramoye said the meeting described by the EFCC as “routine” has cast big doubt on the impartiality of the trial judge in the matter, FRN v Abubakar Ali Peters.
According to Adaramoye, the time and venue of the meeting has back-stabbed the principle of fair hearing which is the fulcrum of justice, equity and good conscience.
“I have, as a legal practitioner and a Nigerian carefully refrained from commenting on the issue of the alleged meeting between the EFCC Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa and the Lagos State Judge. I cannot but make my comment after the confirmation of the same by the EFCC as a ‘routine’ or courtesy meeting,” he said.
He further said the time and place of meeting between the Chairman of EFCC, the Chief Judge of the state and the trial judge, Justice Christopher Balogun of the Lagos High Court has given them out that it was held in bad faith as it hurts the trial.
He said: “That the EFCC Chairman would have chosen another day and time for the ‘courtesy or routine visit.’ That by-stander cannot but read or impute meaning of bad faith to the matter with the ultimate end of compromising the criminal case of Mr Abubakar Ali Peters.”
He noted that the action of Mr Bawa vis-a-vis holding a meeting with the trial judge has eroded the principle of fair hearing in the trial as their action has arm-twisted justice to the prosecution’s favour.
“That fair hearing is the fulcrum of justice, equity and good conscience. And that the confirmed visit cannot but erode the confidence of the defendant and the society who are interested parties in the ongoing trial in the case. It is thus confirmed that a fair hearing on this matter has been arm-twisted and justice cannot be attained in this matter.
” It is therefore against this aforesaid that I believe that the umpire saddled with adjudicating on this matter has been a suspect as to the impartiality of adjudicating in this matter.
“The confidence always associated with the fair hearing in a trial, very particularly in a criminal trial has been violently tampered with by this inauspicious visit.
“The court must safeguard the rights and liberties of individuals and protect them from any abuse or misuse of power. This dictum of Justice C. A. Oputa in Federal Civil Service Commission & Ors Vs. J. O. Laoye (1989)4 SCNJ (pt.11)146 at179 has been desecrated and violated by the so-called routine and courtesy visit of the EFCC Chairman.
“This unfortunate visit becomes more worrisome when it is juxtaposed against the state of moral topsy-turvy the country finds itself in today. The moral propriety of the meeting is out of the serious question and in jeopardy.
“It is in the light of the above that in the interest of justice, equity and good conscience that this matter is reassigned to another judge immediately, to do otherwise is to behead justice at dawn.” Adaramoye submitted.
It will be recalled that Mr Bawa was head of the team that investigated the matter long before he became the Chairman of the EFCC.
The matter commenced in 2012 and he has been in the witness box for the past five years.