Justice Charles Achibong of the Federal High Court, Lagos has adjourned to January 31, hearing in the application brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC seeking to disqualify the trial judge from handling the case involving Erastus Akingbola, former managing director/chief executive officer of Intercontinental Bank Plc. At the resumed hearing, counsel to the EFCC, Emmanuel Ukala, SAN told the court that there was a pending motion.
“We have a motion dated 28th September, 2011 and filed same day. The motion is seeking an order of your lordship to disqualify or excuse himself from continuing with the matter. The application takes prominence over other matter.” However, he said he was just served a counter motion this morning (January 25) and that it was a copious one. Ukala further told the court that based on the fact that the counter motion was copious, he was of the opinion that it warrant an adjournment to enable the prosecution go through it and respond accordingly.
However, Felix Fagbohungbe, SAN counsel to Akingbola in his counter motion, argued that the court has not done anything to show that it was biased. He also stated that the alleged bias was predicated on another case where Akingbola sought the leave of the court for the enforcement of his fundamental rights against alleged abuse by the EFCC. He said it would be unjust and unfair to allow the applicant to pick and chose a judge on matters in which it is a party.
Justice Achibong however wondered while the defence counsel failed to file his motion before now. He stated that when he adjourned on the last date, he expected the defence counsel to have filed all necessary motions. He stated that he was willing to deal with the matter quickly and therefore adjourned to January 31 to hear the EFCC‘s application. Erastus Akingbola was re-arraigned before Justice Achibong by EFCC on November 29, 2010. His re-arraignment was sequel to the transfer of the case from Justice Idris Mohammed where Akingbola was first arraigned.
He had been granted bail by Justice Mohammed before the case was transferred to Justice Achibong. However, Akingbola refused to take his plea when he was re-arraigned before Justice Achibong as his counsel, Felix Fagbohungbe opposed it on the grounds that there was an application before the court seeking to quash the charges. He told the court that “the accused person/applicant is being charged and arraigned for offences which are unknown to law,”a position that was opposed by counsel to the EFCC. Akingbola was subsequently allowed to return home.