THE Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, has asked the Chief Judge of Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati, to recuse himself from the proscription case of the group over alleged bias and conflict of interest.
In a statement by its Publicity Secretary, Comrade Emma Powerful, IPOB decried what it termed “the troubling absence of the presiding judge, Justice Kafarati, in the hearing of the application for the dismissal of the order he granted proscribing IPOB.”
According to IPOB, the judge granted “an illegal backyard order banning IPOB activities but now the time has come for that order to be interrogated in an open court” Justice Kafarati is absent ‘’from his own court so that the case will not be heard.”
The statement read in part: “From a brief interface with our lead counsel, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, within the premises of the Federal High Court, Abuja on October 23, 2017, we observed with deep concern the manifest case of perversion of justice by the AGF, acting in accord with the judiciary of Nigeria, to sustain the unsustainable tag of terrorism against IPOB until their illegality can find acceptability or justification in the eyes of the public with the passage of time.
“The ex-parte order proscribing IPOB and designating it as a terrorist group was applied for by the Federal Government on August 20, 2017, and same was granted in chambers by the Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
“It should also be noted that hearing applications in chambers connotes proceedings conducted with utmost secrecy without the respondent (IPOB) present. This procedure can only be used in limited circumstance as it is a process widely regarded within legal circles as inimical to cardinal principle of fair hearing.
“This order was granted barley two days after the military authority unilaterally and illegally declared that IPOB, is a ‘terrorist Group.’ This illegal declaration was promptly retracted by Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai following the criticism that trailed their unconstitutional pronouncement.
“It is expected that a senior judge and Acting Chief Judge for that matter in the person of Justice Kafarati ought to be fully aware of his October official engagements/undertakings at the time he gave a date for the hearing of the IPOB application. It is therefore baffling and most troubling that Justice Kafarati did not sit on the day the matter was scheduled for hearing, neither did his chambers communicate IPOB lawyers that the hearing will not hold.
“Going by the above unethical antecedents of both Justice Kafarati, the Acting Chief Judge and AGF Abubakar Malami, the hearing was deliberately fixed on a day Justice Kafarati knew he would be travelling outside Nigeria for a one week seminar.
“It is a known fact, even to the unintelligent, that had Justice Kafarati sat on this matter on October 23, 2017, the application seeking the dismissal of the ex-parte order he granted September 20, 2017, would have been granted, since same was not being challenged by the Attorney-General of the Federation.
‘’The absence of any legal representation from the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation on the day this application was originally scheduled to be heard, being October 23, 2017, has more to it than meets the eye. Our advice remains that the Acting Chief Judge should most humbly recuse himself from this case on the grounds of manifest bias and conflict of interest.’
By Clifford Ndujihe