The detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, alongside two of his co-defendants, raised an allegation of bias against Justice James Tsoho of a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja who is currently presiding over the charge made against them by the Federal High Court.
They specifically made an allegation of bias against the trial judge before whom they were docked on January 20, 2016, on charges that touch on treasonable felony, and subsequently made an application that the case be transferred to another judge.
The request of the trio was made known in a notice of appeal and motion of stay of proceedings pending appeal initiated by the defendants.
Interestingly, this would be the second time Kanu and others would be stating their doubts concerning the ability of their trial judge to endure justice and fairness in their trial.
To be particular, the IPOB leader had, in December 23, 2015, informed Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the same court that he was not confident that the judge would ensure justice and would not be bias.
Kanu had insisted that he got wind that Justice Mohammed cannot ensure justice in his trial, just as he demanded that the case be transferred to another judge.
On the basis of this request, Justice Mohammed withdrew from the case and returned the case file to the court’s Chief Judge, Justice Ibrahim Auta, who later reassigned the case to Tsoho.
The IPOB boss and his colleagues were docked before Justice Tsoho on six counts of treasonable felony, unlawful possession of firearms and other offences bordering on their agitation for secession of the Republic of Biafra from Nigeria.
According to their notice of appeal, the defendants are asking the Court of Appeal for, “An order of this honourable court directing the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to transfer the trial hearing of the substantive charge No. FHC/ABJ/CR/383/15, currently pending before Justice J. Tsoho to another judge of the Federal High Court for trial.”
They contended that the judge erred in law “when having refused the application for the witnesses of the prosecution to testify behind screens, or masked” on February 19, 2016, “suddenly varied the said order in the ruling delivered on March 7, 2016, on a mere oral application by the respondent.”
Kanu further posited that the judge granted the prosecution’s oral application without jurisdiction, and thereby “occasioning a miscarriage of justice.”
“There is manifest bias on the part of the learned trial judge in the conduct of this case, which is apparent in the unwholesome manner his order was reviewed to give undue advantage to the prosecution, in flagrant violation of the appellants’ right to fair trial, as constitutionally guaranteed under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).
“That this honourable court has no jurisdiction to re-litigate on issue it had already decided.
“That the court had manifested serious bias in the conduct of this trial, which is gravely impeding the defendants’ constitutional rights to fair hearing/trial.”