by Stanley Azuakola
We might just as well tag it as one of those things which happens in this country that no one can really explain but all have to fully accept. Judge Donatus Okorowa, the trial judge handling the case involving former House of Representatives Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, was suddenly transferred on Monday, further stalling the case which for most Nigerians has already gone on for too long.
What makes the transfer so bizarre is that the case was scheduled to be tried for four days between September 24 to 27.
Okorowa has now been moved to the Federal High Court in Taraba State by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta.
Bankole is standing trial on a 16 count criminal charge of contract inflation and fraudulent embezzlement of public funds.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, through its spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, condemned the sudden transfer of the judge, remarking that such incidents are part of the problems the agency faces on corruption trials, and the reason why the EFCC has consistently called for the creation of a special court for the trial of corruption cases.
Even Dimeji Bankole, through his lead counsel, Wale Akonni SAN, pleaded with Justice Auta in a letter to allow the trial judge continue to preside over the case to prevent undue delay.
According to reports:
The EFCC counsel, Festus Keyamo, said he is waiting to hear from the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Ibrahim Auta, if Mr. Okorowa will be coming from Taraba to preside over the trial or if the case will be assigned to another judge.
Mr. Bankole had on June 13 and July 26 filed two separate motions seeking the court to invalidate the charges laid against him by the EFCC, saying that proof of evidence did not attribute any shred of criminality against him.
But in December 19, 2011, Mr. Okorowa dismissed the applications insisting that there was sufficient evidence placed before the court linking Mr. Bankole to the alleged crime.
Mr. Okorowa refused for the case to be struck out, holding that the insufficiency of prove of evidence as observed by the defendant was immaterial since it is the duty of the court to determine the value of the proof of evidence.