The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, has given a go ahead for investigation into a petition accusing a Chief Magistrate in Abuja, Abubakar Babashani, of deliberately frustrating moves to commence hearing on the perjury charge entered against the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Muhammadu Buhari.
The CJN has also directed the magistrate to immediately file his response to the petition entitled “Case of Abuse of Office and Manifest Bias by His Worship, Abubakar Babashani, in The Criminal Complaint by Shield Jones Ufot & Ors. Vs. Muhammed Buhari.”
In a letter with Ref. No. CJN/MAN/B9/S.1/VOL.VI/389, signed by his Senior Special Assistant, Mrs. Hadiza Sa’eed, with which he reacted to the petition, the CJN said he would give due consideration to all the allegations that were raised against the magistrate in the complaint letter dated February 4, 2015.
Four activists, Shield Jones Ufot, Jimmy David, Ogueri Enwerem and Tochukwu Okorie, had in a direct criminal complaint filed before the Abuja Chief Magistrate Court, accused Buhari of violating section 157 of the Penal Code.
In the suit they filed pursuant to sections 143 (d) and 152 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the plaintiffs alleged that the APC presidential flag bearer placed reliance on a bogus certificate to depose an affidavit before a competent court, an action they said amounted to perjury and punishable under section 158 of the Penal Code Law.
However, the plaintiffs told the CJN that after filing the criminal complaint and paying all the necessary fees, the Chief Magistrate Babashani “refused to give directives as required of him by law either for the Police to investigate and report back to the court, assign the matter to another Magistrate or proceed to hear the matter.”
“On several occasions when we enquired at the registry of the court, we were informed that his worship was not on seat to attend to our file. We approached his worship earlier today to seek explanation for his refusal to make the necessary directives.
“At first, his worship informed us that he got directives from the Honourable Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory not to hear our matter but when we sought to know in what form the directive cane, his worship further informed us that he will not sit on our matter because a revenue collector’s reciept was not attached to the file and he will not accept Aso Bank’s teller as evidence of payment for filing the suit.
“The FCT High Court has not issued a revenue receipt to any litigant as evidence of payment for filing any process in the court but accepted Aso Bank’s teller as evidence of payment for any process filed in the court both in the High Court and the Magistrate Court and it is not the fault of the litigant(s) that the court does not have any receipt to issue to him/them.
“We are equally aware of many cases filed in the Chief Magistrate Court which were heard and some are still being heard by his worship, Abubakar Babashani.
“Upon refusal of his worship to carry out his judicial duties, out clients made further enquiries at the revenue department both at the Magistrate Court and the FCT High Court and we were informed that the court is yet to print receipts for cases filed in court and only use tellers as evidence of payment for filing a suit.
“Considering the above stated facts, out clients are led to believe that his Worship is intentionally refusing to hear our clients’ matter in order to frustrate our clients from pursuing justice, giving flimsy excuses in so doing.
“Our clients are equally convinced that his Worship is already biased and has shown manifest bias as to the content of our complaint. We therefore call upon you to use your good offices to do or cause to be done the following: (a) Direct the transfer of the case from his worship, Abubakar Babashani to any other magistrate of the FCT Magistrate Court competent to hear the matter.
“(b) Investigate the allegations contained in this petition with a view to meting out adequate punishment to his Worship if found culpable.
“Our clients strongly believe in the pursuit of justice and matters filed before a court should be given fair and unbiased hearing which the actions of his Worship does not depict in this instance.
“My Lord, we therefore kindly request that the case file on this matter be withdrawn from his Worship, Chief Magistrate Babashani and be re-assigned to any other Magistrate of the Magistrate Court of the FCT for hearing,” the petition read.