Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court in Lagos Wednesday refused to recuse himself from the trial of former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory Mrs Jumoke Akinjide for alleged money laundering.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned her with a People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader in Oyo State Chief Olarenwaju Otiti and a former Senator representing Oyo Central Senatorial District Ayo Adeseun.
Former Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, said to be at large, is also named in the charge.
Otiti and Adeseun had on February 6 prayed the judge to recuse himself from the case.
They accused him of bias, claiming that as a former head of EFCC’s legal unit, they did not believe they would get justice in his court.
Justice Hassan headed the EFCC’s legal unit before he was appointed a judge.
The applications were filed after trial had begun, during which a trial-within-trial was also held.
But, Justice Hassan dismissed the applications, describing them as “cheap blackmail”.
He held: “As rightly submitted by the prosecution, at the time the defendants were investigated and subsequently charged before the Federal High Court in Ibadan, the trial judge had been appointed a judge already.
“I agree with learned counsel for the prosecution that judges of superior courts of record swear to oath of allegiance to be just and fair, and cannot be disqualified from presiding over cases by mere allegations that the judge once worked in an organisation.
“Learned counsel to the third defendant had filed a similar application for the transfer of the case to Ibadan.
“On 12 December 2018, the court dismissed the application, only for counsel to turn around and raise allegations of bias.
“These applications are meant to harass, intimidate and blackmail the court; the court will not succumb to cheap blackmail.
“Both applications are liable to be dismissed and they are accordingly dismissed. I make no order as to cost,” the judge held.
The defendants were re-arraigned last January 16 on the amended charge.
EFCC accused them of conspiring to directly take possession of N650million from Mrs. Alison-Madueke, which they reasonably ought to have known was part of proceeds of an unlawful act, and without going through a financial institution.
The alleged offence, EFCC said, contravenes the Money Laundering Act.
Justice Hassan adjourned until April 18 for continuation of trial.