By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Trial Justice Babatunde Quadri of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, remitted the case-file of the money laundering charge against former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, back to the Chief Judge “for further directive”.
Justice Babatunde said he could not proceed with the matter in view of a recent judgment of the Court of Appeal. The appellate court had directed that Lamido who is facing trial alongside his two sons, Aminu and Mustapha, should be tried before Justice Adeniyi Ademola. It upheld an appeal Lamido and his sons lodged against the re-assignment of their case to a new trial Judge. The CJ had in exercise of his administrative powers, transferred the case-file to Justice Quadri after Justice Ademola was arrested and subsequently prosecuted by the Federal Government on corruption charges.
Based on a directive by the National Judicial Council, NJC, Justice Ademola temporarily stepped down from the bench to answer to the 18-count charge FG entered against him, his wife, Olabowale, and Lamido’s lawyer, Agi, SAN. However, the Judge and his co-defendants were later discharged and acquitted of all the charges against them by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory on February 5. Lamido, whose case was among several others that were stalled by the development, in his application dated April 25, 2017, asked the CJ to allow Justice Ademola to resume hearing on his matter.
The former governor noted that re-assigning the case to Justice Quadri would mean that the trial will start de-novo (afresh). He further drew attention of the court to the fact that the prosecution had already called 18 out of 20 witnesses billed to testify in the case.
Meanwhile, shortly after the appellate court’s judgment, before Justice Ademola could resume hearing on the case, he was compulsorily retired by the NJC. Consequently, when the matter came up for hearing on Monday, counsel to the defendants, Mr. Kanu Agabi, SAN, said there was need for Justice Quadri to hand-off the matter as he was directed to do by the apellate court.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has however filed a further amended 43-count charge against the defendants. Cited as co-defendants in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/329/2015, were Aminu Abubakar, Bartholomew Agoha and three companies- Bamaina Company Nigeria Ltd, Bamaina Aluminium Ltd and Speeds International Ltd.
The court had previously granted the former governor bail to the tune of N100 million with two sureties in like sum, while the other defendants and his two sons were admitted to bail in the sum of N50 million each with two sureties each in like sum.