The National Assembly candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State have petitioned the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, and the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice John Terhemba Tsoho, to recall their case files currently before Justice Stephen Daylop-Pam of the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt, and transfer same to another judge in Abuja.
The candidates said that they had lost confidence in Justice Daylop-Pam over his alleged association with the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike.
According to the candidates, the refusal of Justice Daylop-Pam to recuse himself from the suit despite several applications was a plot by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to delist them from the ballot for the 2023 general election.
Signatories to the petition include Ezemonye Ezekiel-Amadi, Henry Paul Odidi, Ininasiya C West and Nwibani Eric Sorbari. Others are Chikordi Dike, Collyns Owhindo, Ambassador Oji Ngofa, Eric Chinedu Apia, Chisom Dike, Ephraim Nwuzi and Allison Igbiks.
The petition reads in part “We are the candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State for National Assembly seats in the 2023 general elections.
“The People’s Democratic Party filed the above suit against us, seeking to nullify our primaries and consequently delisting our names from the ballots of the 2023 general elections.
“The matter, alongside all similar matters filed by the PDP against all other parties and seeking the same relief of delisting from the 2023 ballots, was assigned by the Administrative Judge to Honorable Justice Stephen Daylop-Pam for determination.
“On the 25/7/2022 when the matter came up, the 12th defendant who appeared in person, orally applied that Hon Stephen Daylop-Pam recuses himself from the suit as he – the 12th defendant – had already written to the Administrative Judge requesting that the case filed be remitted to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for reassignment to another Judge of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, for determination.
“Apart from the letter written by the 12th defendant, everyone of us wrote individually to the Administrative Judge requesting that the matter be taken away from Hon Justice Pam.
“One of the grounds of our Petition was that Hon Justice Pam is extremely close to the Governor of Rivers State, Gov Nyesom Wike, whom he delivered in his favour, the controversial Federal Inland Revenue Service (VAT) case.
“We know so much that transpired between Justice Pam and the Governor at that time even though for the sake of decency, we did not state and have not stated all that transpired in that matter.
“We also stated that the Rivers State Legal Adviser of the PDP was seen on several occasions while this suit is still pending, having free ingress and egress to the Chambers of Hon. Justice Pam, having meetings with him. How else can one infer likelihood of bias?
“By letter dated 8th of August, the Administrative Judge responded
to our letters and directed that we go back to the same Court and orally apply to Hon Justice Pam to recuse himself so that he will, according to the Administrative Judge, write a considered ruling on our application.
“Your Lordship, we are dissatisfied with the decision of the Administrative Judge. In the first place, we had made the
application on the 25/7/2022 when the matter came up. The reaction of the trial judge was that he would take the application together with the substantive Suit. To us, that is a trap, because the danger in it is that he is likely to overrule us and go ahead to
deliver judgment in the substantive Suit against us.
“Hon Justice Pam taking our application for recusal for the second time with the substantive suit is a contradiction in terms. In doing that, he will have done what we are asking him not to do.
“Your Lordship, Hon Justice Pan is a human being, our petition to the Admin Judge, which he also responded to, must have no doubt bruised his ego. It will be dangerous to allow a man with bruised ego to go on with our matter. We do not have confidence in what will be the outcome of the case. Justice is rooted in confidence.
“No matter how well and unbiased Hon Justice Pam will appear to be, it will not be morally right for him to continue with the hearing of our matter. Even if he rules in our favour, the Plaintiff will feel that the Learned trial Judge buckled under the pressure of petition.
“Your Lordship, we are aware that there is a circular on what a trial judge handling a pre-trial case should do when a Petition is written against him and that is: he should recuse himself.
“We are appealing to you sir, to recall the case filed from Hon Justice Pam and re-assign same to another Judge of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja for determination.