By Chukwumah Umeorah
An oil firm, Nadabo Energy Ltd, has asked a judge of an Ikeja High Court, Justice Christopher Balogun, to recuse himself from further presiding over a suit with case number ID/118C/2012, for allegedly meeting with Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa, the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The allegations of bias were made in an affidavit in support of a Motion on Notice sworn by Abubakar Peters, the Managing Director, Nadabo Energy Ltd, and a defendant in the suit.
According to the affidavit, Bawa, on March 31, minutes after giving evidence before the court, had allegedly held a meeting with Balogun, the presiding judge in the office of Justice Kazeem Alogba, the Chief Judge of Lagos State.
Peters, in the affidavit, noted that several online publications widely reported the meeting and the EFCC, through their official Facebook page, did not deny the meeting, but rather described it as a “routine and courtesy visit”. He said the outrage that generated over the meeting has cast doubt on the neutrality of Balogun in adjudicating the case.
Peters said Bawa was a principal superintendent of the EFCC when he investigated the N1.4 billion subsidy fraud allegations against him, and as a result of his investigations, Bawa, now elevated to the post of chairman of the anti-graft agency, is the star witness in the case.
Bawa commenced his evidence-in-chief as PW5 on June 3, 2015 and did not conclude till December 20, 2021.
Responding, the EFCC, in a counter-affidavit deposed to by Mr Samuel Daji, a legal officer, denied the allegations of bias.The anti-graft agency denied that Bawa visited and held a meeting with the trial judge. The EFCC, however, admitted that its executive chairman had a meeting with the Chief Judge of Lagos State on the said day.
Peters and his firm, NADABO Energy Ltd, are being tried by the EFCC on a 27-count charge bordering on using forged documents to obtain N1.4 billion from the Federal Government as oil subsidy.
The trial began on December 10, 2012, and the EFCC has, so far, called five prosecution witnesses.