A former Governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye, has lost an attempt halt the N1.162 billion corruption trial brought against him by the Federal Government.
Mr. Dariye, a serving senator, is facing a 23-count charge for allegedly diverting the state’s share of the Ecological Fund to private companies.
The funds were allegedly diverted to private firms including Ebenezer Retnan Ventures and Pinnacle Communications Limited, according to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Mr. Dariye had filed a motion seeking Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Gudu, Abuja, to disqualify himself from the trial.
He had lost a similar application filed before the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, Justice U.I. Bello, where he accused Justice Banjoko of “manifest and undisguised bias.”
The lawmaker had also asked the FCT chief judge to transfer his case file to another judge but lost when the court in January, ordered him to continue with the trial.
Justice Bello described the allegation of bias by Mr. Dariye as “baseless,” and summarily threw out the motion.
Again, on Monday, Justice Banjoko again threw out Mr. Dariye’s motion seeking him (judge) to disqualify himself from the trial.
The embattled former governor had in December 2016, filed an application asking the trial judge to disqualify himself from the case.
He had also applied to the court to recall Musa Sunday, an EFCC operative who was cross-examined by both the prosecution and defence on January 25, 2016, and Peter Clark, a retired detective constable with the United Kingdom (UK), Metropolitan Police.
The duo were two principal witnesses earlier cross-examined by both counsels on May 9, 2016.
Citing exhibits D6 – D34 as reasons for the recall, Mr. Dariye argued that there was the need to further cross-examine Mr. Sunday about the transactions between the Plateau State Government and Pinnacle Communications Limited.
On the other hand, Mr. Clark was asked to be summoned because the evidence the operative obtained, his investigation in the United Kingdom and the need to confront him with new evidence.
But the prosecution counsel, Adeniyi Adebisi, kicked against the motion on grounds that the defence was provided with the list of all witnesses in the proof of evidence filed before the court.
“My Lord, the defence knew in advance the witnesses to be called by the prosecution and so had adequate time and opportunity to review their statements and all evidence referred to were in existence and available long before Musa Sunday and Peter Clark testified before the court,” Mr. Adeniyi told the court.
“Dariye was present at all proceedings and well represented by his counsel who thoroughly cross-examined the two witnesses.
“The defence was never stampeded and the court didn’t force the counsel to conclude his cross-examination. The applications are a ploy to delay the case and the Supreme Court has given directive for expeditious hearing.”
Mr. Adeniyi, therefore, urged the court to dismiss the applications.
While ruling on the motion seeking for his disqualification from the case, Justice Banjoko said, “I have no interest whatsoever in this case and I have so far presided over the case without fear or favour, and in line with my oath of office and so the motion lacks merit and is accordingly dismissed.”
On the second motion, the judge held that while a recall by a party was not out of order, it must only be permitted by a trial judge.
He also held that a recall could be allowed where the party seeking it presents to the court, enough facts as well as questions he intends to ask the witness and which were not asked.
The judge insisted that Mr. Clark was not a compellable witness and being a master of his own time, may not still reside in the UK since his retirement.
“The application is hereby denied and accordingly dismissed,” said Justice Banjoko.
He, however, granted the request to recall Mr. Sunday of the EFCC, for further cross-examination, while adjourning the case to March 16, 2017.