Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja has recused himself from hearing the suit by Imo Gov. Rochas Okorocha seeking an order to compel the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to issue him with a Certificate of Return as Imo West Senator-elect.
Backstory: Okorocha was initially declared as winner, but INEC refused to issue him a Certificate of Return after the Returning Officer, Prof. Francis Ibeawuchi, claimed that he had announced the result under duress.
Why Justice Taiwo recused himself from the case:
- He said on Wednesday that his decision was based on the allegations of bias against him by some parties in the suit.
- The allegations were made by the candidates of the PDP, Jones Onyeriri and that of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Senator Osita Izunaso.
What Justice Taiwo’s accusers said:
- PDP’s Onyeriri said in a petition that the judge had made utterances which showed that he had “clearly prejudged the substantive issues that will be resolved in this matter and clearly showed he has taken sides with the plaintiff (Okorocha).”
- APGA’s Izunaso said “there is a likelihood of bias on the part of this honorable court to continue to hear the suit as the honorable presiding judge has expressed an opinion favorable to the plaintiff even without the hearing of the substantive suit.”
What the judge said that caused the protest: According to an affidavit by Onyeriri, Justice Taiwo told INEC counsel, Wendy Kuku, last Friday that the commission was responsible for the problems in the election. That statement has been interpreted by the defendants in the case to mean that he would be biased against INEC which had taken the decision to withhold the certificate from the governor.
The case file will now be returned to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati, for re-assignment to another judge.