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N8bn: Counsel asks trial judge to disqualify self over alleged bias

By Ola Ajayi, Ibadan

The witness invited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to testify against the staff of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and others who are standing trial for alleged stealing of over N8 billion mutilated currency notes was not allowed to stand in the witness box as one of the counsel to the second, third and fifth accused persons accused the trial judge, Justice Olayinka Faaji of a Federal High Court, Ibadan, of bias in his earlier ruling.

He alleged that the court had already found his clients guilty in its ruling on the bail application filed by the accused persons and therefore the trial judge should disqualify himself for his alleged conclusion even though the case was yet to be concluded.

The judge, had, in the ruling, said based on the weight of the evidence against the accused, the court could not grant the accused the bail applications they prayed the court to grant. But, others whose allegations were not found weighty were granted bail by the same judge.

Exactly 8:43am, the accused persons, Mr. Kolawole Babalola, Olaniran Muniru, Toogun Kayode Phillip, Ajuwon Bolade and Samuel Ogbeide were brought into the court room handcuffed but the handcuffs were removed before the commencement of the trial.

After all counsel to the five accused persons had announced appearances, Mr. L. O Yussuf, who stood in for Otunba Olayinka Bolanle, counsel to the first accused person had raised the issue of jurisdiction of the court, but the court told him he did not have his motion before it and as such he could not stop the trial. “That attitude is unbecoming of lawyers. You don’t behave that way. You don’t file application and you want to stop the court proceedings. I don’t have your application and so I am proceeding with the trial.”

 


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