By Aboje Anefu, Makurdi
A Makurdi High Court, Thursday, dismissed a motion filed by Sesugh Akume seeking the trial judge to recuse himself from the N150 million libel suit instituted by Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom against him and the publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyele Sowore.
Mr. Akume filed a motion, seeking a declaration that the judge in the case should disqualify himself from hearing the matter and return the file to the Chief Judge of the State based on a petition he has written to the National Judicial Council, NJC, against the judge in the instant case and another, alleging impunity, bias and violation of code of conduct.
At the last adjournment, Counsel to Governor Ortom, Richard Ayilla urged the court to dismiss the application as it was based on apprehension and bias.
He submitted that Exhibit ‘one’ filed by Akume is dated October 22,2021 and on November 11,2022, Akume’s counsel participated fully in the proceedings in the instant case and cross examined the two witnesses called by the plaintiff.
In his response, counsel to Akume, Lubem Ukpo, urged the court to grant his application, adding that as at the time he fully participated in proceedings and cross examined Governor Ortom’s witnesses, the apprehension had not arisen.
Ruling on the matter, the trial judge, Justice Augustine Ityonyiman pointed out that, Exhibit ‘one’ attached to the application, the hub upon which the application is hinged is dated October 22,2021.
He held that, if the fear and apprehension expressed in the instant suit had not arisen, then the application for the court to recuse itself cannot be grounded on the basis of exhibit one attached to the application.
Justice Ityonyiman also pointed out that, exhibit ‘one’ which is dated October 22,2021 precedes the hearing of November 11,2022 which Akume’s counsel fully participated in is unconnected to the suit in MHC/294/2020.
The judge held that there is no issue raised pertaining to the instant suit to warrant the call for the court to recuse itself.
He noted that by paragraph 4 of the affidavit, it is clear that the said apprehension has arisen because Mr Akume who is the second defendant in the suit is to appear before the court for his defense.
The trial judge held that the exhibit one attached to the affidavit is addressed to the Chairman, National Judicial Council, NJC, Abuja, and what is therefore pleaded is not what has been front-loaded.
Justice Ityonyiman accordingly dismissed the application and adjourned to March 25,2021 for defense.
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