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N50M BRIBE SCAM: JUDGE SUSPENDS PROCEEDINGS IN AKALA'S SUIT

By NBF News
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Embattled Justice Jonathan Shakarho of the Federal High Court, Ibadan, yesterday adjourned indefinitely proceedings in the contempt charge and substantive suit challenging the candidature of Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala of Oyo State as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate for Oyo State.

Justice Shakarho adjourned indefinitely the proceedings pending the decision of the Chief Judge of Nigeria (CJN) on an allegation that he took bribe to make a controversial order against a party in the matter.

Mr. Yekinni Atoyebi, one of the plaintiffs in the suit, instituted by three PDP governorship aspirants and a faction of the party, seeking nullification of the list of the party's candidates for the April elections, which included the governor, had petitioned the CJN alleging that the judge vacated an interim injunction he had earlier granted the applicants restraining the defendants, including the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC), from presenting or officially acting on the list, which they claimed was a product of flawed, inconclusive and illegal congresses held in December 2010.

Atoyebi, the 35th applicant, alleged that Shakarho was induced with N50 million to make the order, which had also been appealed by the applicants.

Reacting to the allegation, Governor Adebayo Alao Akala, said the allegation signalled 'a sad day for the relationship between politicians and the Judiciary'.

Also in a reaction by his Special Adviser on Public Communication, Dotun Oyelade, the governor accused the petitioners of 'resorting to cheap blackmail to pervert the course of justice' with the claim 'that the Hon. Justice of the Federal High Court received N50 million from the defendants just because he ruled against their petition to stop Akala's ticket

'What manner of politicians are these who will turn the innocents into villains within the twinkle of an eye because a case did not go their way?' the statement querried.

The governor called on the National Judicial Council to investigate this and bring the culprits to book.

At the resumed sitting of the court yesterday, Justice Shakarho announced that he would not go on with the case, citing the petition as the stumbling block for his continued adjudication in the matter for now.

The judge caused a mild stir, as he breezed into the courtroom and immediately bared his mind in a short address. He refused to observe the announcement of appearances by the lawyers in the court, declaring, as he sat down: 'No aspect of the case is going on. It appears that no aspect of the suit is going on. We can't go on with the case by the undoing of some of the plaintiffs. I am leaving the case as it is. When there is a directive from my chief judge, we will go on.'

Waving a copy of the petition in the open court, Justice Shakarho described the allegations contained in it as frivolous and unfounded, wondering why the petitioner, who he observed had always come to court, was absent.

'Where is Yekinni Atoyebi? He is not in the court today and he always comes. Even the Comrade, (Rotimi) Akeredolu (SAN) did not comeā€¦ Once one person writes against me, we cannot go on. He said in his last paragraph that 'in my view, it is clear we cannot obtain justice before Shakarho. I want another judge to hear the matter'. Can I, in the face of this go further in this matter? No. This case is adjourned sine die. Case yin o ti ba je. They have shot themselves in the leg. It is their own case, if they want to put a block on it, kilo kan mi ni be,' he thundered.

Maintaining his innocence and integrity, the visibly flustered judge declared that he had absolutely no interest in the matter and would therefore respectfully respond to the allegations when called upon to do so by his superiors.

Counsel to the applicants, Sanyaolu Akinyele, had, however, interjected the judge's speech, requesting that the court strike out the name of the petitioner in the suit for the case to continue.

But, the judge insisted he was discontinuing with the case until he received further directives from the chief judge of the Federal High Court.

Counsel to the defendants, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) and Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN) agreed with the judge's position. Fagbemi noted that although it was tempting to go on with the case, the judge had taken a right step by halting the suit pending further directives.