Sunday, November 24, 2013

Alleged Forgery: CJ Transfers FG Suit Against LEADERSHIP Journalists to Jonathan’s Kinsman

The Chief Judge of the Abuja High Court, Justice Ibrahim Bukar, has
transferred a lawsuit by the Federal Government accusing two
journalists with Nigeria's LEADERSHIP newspaper of forgery to Justice
Peter Affen, a kinsman of President Goodluck Jonathan, who has an
interest in the lawsuit.
Justice Affen becomes the third judge to handle the case since the
Federal Government filed the alleged forgery case against Tony
Amokeodo, the newspaper group's news editor, and Chibuzor Ukaibe, the
paper's political correspondent. The journalists were initially
arraigned before Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court in
Abuja. The Federal Government is accusing Mr. Amokeodo, Mr. Ukaibe as
well as LEADERSHIP newspapers of alleged forgery of a presidential
After a couple of sessions, the Federal Government withdrew the charge
and then re-filed it before Justice Usman Musale of the Abuja High
Court in Kubwa. Justice Musale adjourned the case till October 24,
But in a move described by one lawyer as "bizarre and disturbing,"
Chief Judge Bukar suddenly withdrew the case file from Justice Musale
and re-assigned it to Justice Affen. "This kind of re-assignment is
highly unusual," said a legal source. He added: "It suggests that the
CJ might have been under pressure from certain functionaries of the
government to make this move."
When Justice Musale was hearing the case, the journalists' main
defense lawyer, Femi Falana, had moved a motion asking the court to
direct President Jonathan to testify as a witness in the case. But the
Federal Government's lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo, raised an objection
challenging the propriety of the application. Justice Musale upheld
the objection.
Mr. Falana subsequently filed an appeal against the ruling, asking the
Court of Appeal in Abuja to set aside the verdict of the lower court.
The appeal was still pending when the journalists received a hearing
notice from the court on Thursday, November 21, 2013. The hearing
notice was dated November 20, 2013. The notice indicated that the case
had been re-assigned to the Justice Affen, who hails from the
president's home state of Bayelsa and presides over Court 29 of the
Abuja High Court in Apo. The notice further stated that Justice Affen
would be hearing the case on Tuesday, November 26.
Efforts to get the reaction of the registrar of the court and the
public relations officer (PRO) over the sudden reassignment of the
case were unsuccessful.

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