By Emma Ovuakporie
ABUJAâ€”The presiding judge in the trial of former governor of Nasarawa State, Alhaji Abdulahi Adamu, Justice Marcel Awokulehin, yesterday, voluntarily withdrew from presiding over the N15 billion fraud instituted against Adamu and 18 others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, citing personal reasons and conformity with his conscience.
Accordingly, Awokulehin said he would return the case file to the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court who would re-assign the case to another judge.
Addressing the court while ruling on whether or not the accused persons should continue to enjoy their bail as granted by the former judge, Justice Ibrahim N. Buba, Awokulehin said he had been too scandalized in the media and in the court of public opinion â€œto the extent that the history of James Ibori can not be complete without the mention of Awokulehin neither can the history of Awokulehin be completed without the mention of James Ibori.”
According to him, â€œFor those of you who donâ€™t know Justice Marcel Awokulehin, you have the privilege of meeting him today. It has been reported that I am on transfer to the Federal High Court Lafia, Nasarawa State, so that I can quash the charges against ex-governor Abdulahi Adamu just like I did in the case of James Ibori in Delta State, but I want to state that I am not a judge who will go outside the evidence adduced in court to jail an accused by all means because the complainant wants the accused jailed.”
He said withdrawing from the case is to avoid any scandal that may emanate in the course of presiding over the case.
Prosecution counsel, Adeniyi Akintola, SAN, told the judge that he had no objection to his withdrawal from the case in as much as his decision to withdraw from the case â€œis because you must obey the dictates of your conscience especially arising from the Iboriâ€™s case.
Your decision is acceptable by me but I want to use this opportunity to point out that when it comes to the issue of fighting corruption in Nigeria , all hands, including those of the Judges, must be on deck.”
He said since no one, including Judges, lives in Utopia, â€œit behooves Judges to also apply common sense and not depend wholly on evidence in prosecuting corruption cases. For instance, why would a Judge refuse to accept computer print-out of a bank statement which the prosecution has availed the court and which can be verified by the bank, in the prosecution of a fraud case?â€,Â he queried.
Earlier, Adetunji Oyeyipo, counsel to the accused persons applied for bail â€œsince all the accused persons are still enjoying bail granted by Justice Ibrahim Buba. Bail is continuous, except the prosecution has special circumstances to object the bailâ€.