BY SADIQ IBRAHIM DASIN
It is common knowledge now that Justice Abdulaziz Anka, the judge who started hearing the case of Global Integrity Crusade Network GICN against Governor Bindo, in the Federal High Court, Yola has voluntarily chosen not to continue hearing the case. In other words Justice Anka has recused himself from the case.
I don’t intend to discuss the facts of this case since they are well known to us. What I intend to do here is to try to answer three questions my Facebook friends have asked me about the case, which are –
1. Why was the case transferred to Yola, when the GICN filed it in Federal High Court, Abuja?
2. Why did the judge withdrew and what is the legal implication of the judge’s withdrawal from the case.
3. After the judge’s withdrawal from the case, why should the case file be returned to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja and what would happen next?
On the first question of why the case filed by GCIN in Abuja was transferred to Yola, the answer is simply that the Federal High Court is called FEDERAL because it has presence in all 36 states of the federation and its territorial jurisdiction cut across the entire country. This means you can file your case either in Abuja or in any state of the federation. But if you decide to file your case in Abuja, the Chief Judge of the court (who resides in Abuja) can assign the case to the Federal High Court in the state where the defendant is ordinarily resident. This is the reason why when GICN sued Gov. Bindo in Abuja Division of the court, the Chief Judge transferred the case to Yola, where the defendant (Gov. Bindo) is resident.
Neither Governor Bindo nor Modi can therefore make a case out of this.
On the second question of why the judge withdrew and what is the legal implication of the judge’s withdrawal from the case, the judge has provided the answer himself. In his ruling on Wednesday the 9th of January, 2019 (yesterday), the judge said he is withdrawing from the case for “personal reasons”. This is enough reason in law.
A judge’s withdrawal from a case is called recuse. This, the judge may do and give reason or reasons or he may do and refuse to give any reason at all. It is his prerogative. You can not question him. You can only speculate why he did what he did. I have not met Justice Anka but I have thought of meeting him since he is from my root in Zamfara.
Since we are allowed to speculate, in my opinion, I know that some judges are quiet by nature and may hardly want to try political cases. Justice Anka may be one. He may be a friend to one of the parties or he may have heard a rumour that one of the parties had complained about him to a third party. You know we politicians talk a lot.
These are my own mere speculations. But whatever may be his reason or reasons, since he did not say, the position of the law is that in any proceeding in which a judge’s impartiality might ‘reasonably’ be questioned, it is safer or better for the judge to recuse himself as Justice Anka has done. In any case what is ‘reasonable’ is devoid of any definite definition.
On this one too, neither Bindo nor Modi would have a right to complain on the judge’s recusal of himself from the case because no law gives any party to a case before a judge the right to question the judge on his decision to disqualify himself from hearing the case.
Finally on why should the case file be returned to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja and what would happen next, the answer is that the case file has to be returned to Abuja because the case was filed in Abuja in September, 2018 and assigned to the judge in Yola Division of the court for the reason I gave above. On the second leg of this question which is what happens next, the answer is that the Chief of the Federal High Court will have to reassign the case to another judge of the same Federal High Court in Yola or he may even reassign it to himself, if necessary.
Any decision he takes in regards to this, neither Governor Bindo nor Modi can question the rationale for his decision unless any or both of them can prove bias on the part of the Chief Judge in reassigning the case to another judge or to himself.
This is purely a legal opinion. I will not be obliged to answer any question regarding the chances of any of the parties in this case. So don’t bother to ask.