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Another Judge Withdraws from Okorocha’s Certificate of Return Suit

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The second judge has withdrawn from a suit filed by the Imo State Governor, Rochas Okorocha, seeking an order compelling the Independent National Electoral Commission to issue him a certificate of return as the senator-elect for Imo West.

The development came barely a week after the first judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, of the Federal High Court in Abuja, withdrew from the case.

The PUNCH gathered on Monday that after Justice Taiwo withdrew from the case on April 10, it was reassigned to Justice Okon Abang also of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Justice Abang was said to have on April 11 fixed April 18 for hearing in the suit.

But on the date fixed for the hearing, Justice Abang announced his decision to withdraw from the suit.

His decision was anchored on Okorocha’s letter to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati, asking for the transfer of the case to another judge.

The governor, in the letter, was said to have sought the transfer of the case to another judge because opponents in the case were jubiliating that Justice Abang would dismiss the case.

The judge, upon seeing the letter in the file, immediately informed parties of his withdrawal from the suit.

Justice Taiwo had earlier withdrawn from the suit following allegations of bias levelled against him by two parties to the suit.

INEC had refused to certificate of return to Okorocha on the basis that the Returning Officer for the February 23 election, Prof Francis Ibeawuchi, said he declared the outgoing governor winner of the senatorial election under duress.

Okorocha had subsequently filed the suit, challenging INEC’s decision to withhold the certificate of return due to him as the winner of the election.

But Justice Taiwo, who had been presiding over the matter, announced his decision to withdraw from the case and ordered that the case file be returned to Justice Abdul-Kafarati, for reassignment to another judge.

The judge said he took the decision following allegations of bias levelled against him by Okorocha’s opponents in the February 23, 2019 election, Jones Onyeriri of the Peoples Democratic Party and Senator Osita Izunaso of the All Progressive Grand Alliance.

Onyeriri sent a petition dated April 8, 2019, to the chief judge, demanding that the case file be retrieved from Justice Taiwo and re-assigned to another judge of the court.

In an affidavit deposed to on his behalf by a lawyer, Chijioke Nzekwe, Onyeriri stated that Justice Taiwo on April 5, 2019, had made a bias comment in favour of the plaintiff, Okorocha, when the judge allegedly told INEC’s lawyer, Wendy Kuku, that the commission was responsible for the problems arising from the election.

The affidavit added that the judge had pre-judged the notices of preliminary objection filed by the second and third defendants (INEC and Onyeriri) when he allegedly said he had read through the provisions of the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended) and found nothing therein that robbed him of the jurisdiction to hear his suit.

Izunaso also filed an application dated April 8, 2019 before the same judge, asking Justice Taiwo to disqualify himself from further handling the matter and return it to the Chief Judge for re-assignment to another judge.

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Court Revokes Marina’s Son’s Bail, Orders His Arrest

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The Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday revoked the bail granted Faisal Maina, the son of Abdulrasheed Maina, and ordered his arrest for jumping bail in his trial on money laundering charges.

Justice Okon Abang also ordered that his trial on money laundering charges would proceed in absentia pending when the security agencies would be able to arrest and produce him in court.

The judge also summoned his surety, a member of the House of Representatives, Sani Umar Dangaladima, representing the Kaura-Namoda Federal Constituency of Zamfara State, to appear in court to show cause why he should not forfeit the N60m bail bond which he signed for Faisal.

The order for Faisal’s arrest came barely six days after the same court, on November 18, issued a similar order against his father, Abdulrasheed Maina, a former Chairman of the defunct Pension Reformed Task Team, who is facing separate N2.1bn money laundering charges before the court.

On Monday, Justice Okon Abang, sent Maina’s surety, Senator Ali Ndume, to jail for his inability to produce the fleeing defendant in court.

Earlier on Tuesday, following the judge’s November 18 ruling, Maina’s trial held in his absence with three prosecution witnesses testifying behind him and his legal team.

At the resumed hearing of Faisal’s trial on Tuesday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s prosecution counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, said both the defendant and his surety had not attended court since June 24, 2020.

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FG, S’South Govs, Leaders Set to Meet in Rivers Tuesday

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A delegation from the Federal Government is expected to meet with Governors and leaders of the South-South geo-political zone in Government House, Port Harcourt today (Tuesday).

The Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, is expected to lead the presidential delegation.

A Government House source in Port Harcourt, who confirmed the meeting to our correspondent, said Gambari is on his way to Port Harcourt.

The rescheduled meeting is coming on the heels of the botched stakeholders’ forum, which angered the Southern Governor, during which the South-South Governors’ Forum, demanded an apology from the presidency.

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Makinde Presents N266.6bn 2021 Budget to Assembly

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The Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, on Monday presented a budget of N266.6bn as the 2021 budget to the state Assembly.

While presenting the budget tagged, ‘Budget of continued consolidation’ Makinde announced that 53.2 per cent of the total budget was being proposed for capital expenditure.

He said, “The 2021 budget is N12bn above the 2020 budget and this is to further drive a consolidation effort that we started this year.

“We were able to achieve 50.2 per cent of the 2020 budget implementation and you will agree with me that it was due to causes beyond our control like the COVID-19 pandemic and other crisis that bedevilled the nation and the world at large.”

Makinde further explained that the recurrent expenditure is N136, 262,990 while the capital expenditure is N130. 381bn.

According to him, 21 per cent of the budget, amounting to N56.348 bn, is allocated to education while infrastructure is to gulp N46bn, representing 17.2per cent of the budget.

For health, a total of N13.2bn, representing 4.9per cent of the budget was set aside for the establishment of primary health centers across 351 wards in the state.

Makinde lauded the state lawmakers for their cooperation.

“So, it is pertinent that we appreciate the members of the state House of Assembly for their support.”

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