Judge Declines To Hands Off Buhari’s Ex-minister’s Libel Suit

ABUJA – Justice Keziah Ogbonnaya of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, on Monday, declined to hands off a libel suit that was filed by the immediate past Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama.

Onyeama had dragged a career Ambassador in the Ministry, Lillian Onoh, who is also a sister to his former wife, before the court, alleging that she defamed him in series of memos she sent to him while he was in office a a Minister.

However, before the court could determine the matter, the defendant asked the judge to recuse herself, alleging bias.

At the resumed proceedings in the case on Monday, the defendant’s lawyer, Mr. Richard Aneke, urged Justice Ogbonnaya to step aside and allow another to adjudicate on the matter.

Mr Aneke drew the attention of the judge to a petition pending before the Chief Judge of the Court, which he said is seeking the reassignment of the case to another judge.

He further disclosed that his client had also petitioned the National Judicial Council, NJC, asking it to discipline Justice Ogbonnaya for being overtly partial in her handling of the suit.

Part of the grouse the defendant raised in her objection was that both the former Minister and the presiding judge hails from Enugu State.

She further alleged that the erstwhile Minister had hatched a plan with the judge to deny her justice in the matter, saying it was the reason why the case file was taken away from Justice Eleojo Enenche, who hitherto handled the case.

Meanwhile, in her ruling on Monday, Justice Ogbonnaya declined to recuse herself from the case which she said was duly assigned to her by the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, Hussein Baba-Yusuf.

“No judge assigns cases himself, it is the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court that assigns cases. It is the same Chief Judge that tells a judge to stop hearing a particular case.

“Unless and until the Chief Judge sends a copy of the petition to me for response, this case will go on.

“Since the Chief Judge has not ordered for the reassignment of this case, this matter shall continue in this court. That is the order of this court,” the judge held.

The case was subsequently adjourned till December 14 for the continuation of hearing.

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