Human rights activist, Sesugh Akume, has accused Justice Augustine Ityonyiman of the High Court of Benue State of having a personal interest in a N150million libel suit slammed against him by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State.
Akume accused Justice Ityonyiman of bias as he urged the judge to recuse himself from the case.
Ortom had slammed N150million suit against Akume on the ground that he accused him of misappropriating local government funds, an allegation that reduced him in the eyes of right-thinking people.
Akume claimed he had written a petition against the judge to the National Judicial Council (along with another judge of the High Court of Benue State) for bias, professional misconduct, abuse of office, etc and to return this case file to the honourable chief judge for reassignment to a neutral judge.
He stated that the judge had previously ruled that he lacked the right to sue in a matter where his Freedom of Information applications were denied.
He said, “The standard procedure and good practice required therefore, is for the judge to have himself quietly withdrawn from hearing any matter pertaining to me, as my petition against him at the NJC is still pending, and more importantly, the ends is for justice not only to be done, but to be seen to be done. A neutral judge to hear the matter would have been ideal in this case. He refused.
“I, therefore, being naturally apprehensive of appearing before this particular judge made an application to him through my lawyers to kindly recuse himself from this trial (which ought to have been done without needing to be told) but was roundly denied and application summarily dismissed!
“The personal interest the honourable Ityonyiman in hearing this matter remains a mystery.
“My lawyers have therefore approached the Court of Appeal, Makurdi, to challenge the unfortunate ruling. They have also notified the court of this appeal and further brought an application for the court to stay proceedings on the matter pending the outcome at the appellate court.
“The next hearing date for the suit where this application is to be considered is 25 March.”