Justice Ademola Bola of the Ondo State High Court in Akure on Monday disqualified himself from the trial of the Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), Prof. Adebiyi Daramola, and the Bursar, Emmanuel Oresegun, over allegations of misappropriating N156.9 million belonging to the institution.
The suit was brought against the two men by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
At the resumed hearing, Justice Bola said he was left with no option than to keep his hands off the matter following what he called a “frivolous” petition written against him by unions organized as the Joint Action Congress (JAC) of the crisis-ridden university.
The judge said he was accused of bias and of acting out the "scripts of unseen fingers" in the case, and his integrity therefore was gravely maligned.
He revealed that the petition, which was routed through the acting Chief Judge of the State, was the first against him in his 15 years as a judge.
In the petition, obtained by SaharaReporters in Akure, the unionists claimed that they had lost absolute confidence in getting justice in the present court, presided over by Justice Ademola Bola.
The petition was signed by Dele Durojaiye, chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU); Omoraka Ejiro, chairman of the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT); and Bayo Aladerotohun, chairman of the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU).
They attributed their conclusion to the fact that while the defendants had been granted bail conditions to be met before being released, they were stunned that the judge ordered the defendants be remanded at the Police Headquarters pending the perfection of their bail. Given the fact that police did not file the charges, the petitioners found it curious that the judge did not ask the accused to be remanded in prison custody.
"We have witnessed some high profile cases where the amount involved is not even up to half of what the defendants are being arraigned for, and in such cases they were ordered to be remanded in the prison pending the perfection of their bail,” they said.
They therefore described Justice Bola’s action as giving preferential treatment to the defendants, and as acting under unseen political hands in conjunction with a high profile officer in the judiciary.
Saying they were formally notifying him of their “total loss of confidence” in the determination of the case, the petitioners demanded that the case be re-assigned to another judge “who will not act understand any external influence whatsoever and would be fair and just to all the parties concerned.”
After reading out the petition against him today, Justice Bola announced that the case had been directed to another court for trial and that he was stepping aside to protect his hard-earned integrity.
Benedict Ubi, counsel to the EFCC, said the anti-graft agency had already brought four witnesses before the court when the issue of the petition was raised and that the EFCC had been unaware of the petition brought by the aggrieved union members against the presiding judge.
“It is pertinent to state that his lordship came up with the petition this morning and you heard him saying the EFCC has nothing to do with it.
“The Judge is entitled to protect his own integrity and opinion and we are satisfied with the development of transferring the case to another court,” he said.
Adebayo Adenipekun, counsel to Mr. Daramola, expressed disappointment at the action of the judge for transferring the case to another court within the jurisdiction.
Mr. Adenipekun said the parties involved in the ongoing fraudulent case had already expressed confidence in the court and wondered why the judge would bend down to a petition from the school union.
In his view, if both parties have confidence in the court, the judge should not have recused himself because of the petition.
"My problem is that if we get to another court, somebody may wake up from the wrong side of the bed and write another petition," he said.
A SaharaReporters correspondent reported that Justice Bola transferred the case to another judge in the Ondo State High Court in Akure and adjourned till March 30.