From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The defamation case against All Progressive Congress (APC) Publicity Secretary for Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area, Mr Ebikpoemi Bobby Ugo, has assumed a new dimension with a request to the Chief Judge of Bayelsa to reassign the case to another judge.
The state government in suit YHC/76C/2022 had charged Ugo before the court on one count charge of criminal defamation with the case assigned to Justice Ineikade Eradiri.
Checks indicated that the case was later reassigned from Justice Eradiri to Justice Ama Zuofa, wife of Governor Douye Diri.
However, Ugo’s lawyer, Mr Fitzgerald Olorogun in a letter addressed to the Chief Judge dated November 15th while acknowledging that the reassignment of the charge to Hon Justice Ama Zuofa which was done pursuant his powers was not in the best interest of justice.
Olorogun said that both from the perspective of the defendant, the Court and legal practice, any step taken by Ama Zuofa in the matter would be viewed as being tainted with apparent bias.
Pointing out the particulars of the case, he indicated that the defendant was accused of defaming Governor Douye Diri who happens to be husband of Justice Zuofa.
The letter read in part: “It is common knowledge within Bayelsa State and beyond that My Lord Hon Justice Ama Zuofa is the wife of the Governor of Bayelsa State, who is being alleged to have been defamed by the defendant. It follows therefore that when and if my Lord Ama Zuofa presides over the trial of the defendant in this charge, she will be seen by every reasonable man as not only wearing the robes of a Judge but also the toga of a wife of the nominal complainant in this case. This will raise the likelihood of bias in the heart of the reasonable man.
“My Lord, while we do not impugn the integrity or competence of Hon Justice Ama Zuofa, it is our view, belief and submission that assigning the case of a defendant alleged to have defamed her husband to her for trial, will not only validly raise the questions and likelihood of bias but has the propensity of bringing the administration of criminal Justice and the Bayelsa State Judiciary into disrepute.”
Olorogun, therefore, prayed that the Chief Judge would exercise the powers conferred upon him and cause the Charge NO YHC/76C/2022 to be reassigned to another judge of the High Court of Bayelsa State other than Justice Ama Zuofa, for hearing and determination.