By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Sequel to an avid protest by Governor Sullivan Chime of Enugu state, challenging the judicial conduct of trial Justice Gladys Olotu of a Federal High Court in Abuja who hitherto presided over a fresh suit seeking to invalidate his election victory, the acting Chief Judge of the High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, Wednesday, ordered the judge to hands-off the suit, just as he equally transferred the case-file to another court for continuation of hearing on the substantive matter.
The CJ equally directed trial Justice Adamu Bello of the same court to promptly assume jurisdiction over the case that was adjourned till May 23.
Governor Chime had in separate petitions he wrote to the National Judicial Council, NJC, and the acting Chief Judge of the High Court, asked trial Justice Olotu to disqualify herself from the case, insisting that her objectivity in the matter was in doubt.
Chime queried the cumulative conduct of the judge since the case commenced before her, insisting that there were reasonable indicators that she was favorably disposed to the suit which is challenging the primary election that saw his emergence as the newly elect governor of Enugu state.
It would be recalled that the trial Judge had in what the governor regarded as a bizarre court preceding, on April 21, consolidated and dismissed 7 separate applications that were filed against the suit by his lead counsel, Mrs. Justina Offia, SAN, on the grounds that they all lacked in merit.
The judge not only refused to grant an adjournment to enable counsel to Chime to respond to the substantive affidavit that was filed by the plaintiff, Chief Alexander Obiechina, but equally abridged the stipulated days allowed by the rules of the court for a defendant in such matter to file his counter-affidavit.
The case which commenced at about 9:15am on that very date, lasted till about 9:06 pm, a situation that culminated into the petition that was written to the NJC and the CJ by Gov Chime.
At the resumed hearing of the case Wednesday, Chime’s lawyer, Chief Offiah, SAN, told the court about the pendency of the petitions, just as she urged Justice Olotu to hands-off the suit and await the decision of the Chief Judge.
Though her oral application was vehemently opposed by counsel to the plaintiff, Oba Maduabuchi, who insisted that the matter should go on as it was earlier scheduled, the trial judge, however, decided to adjourn the case till May 23, stressing that she would have received a feedback from the CJ with regards to the petition, before then.
Barely few minutes after the court rose, trial Justice Olotu re-convened all the parties in the suit and informed them that she had received a letter from the CJ asking her to desist from presiding over the case forthwith.
She further told the parties that trial Justice Bello will accordingly hear the substantive matter on May 23 as it was originally slated.