Defendant kicks as Lagos judge overrules Appeal Court, asks CJ for case transfer
A defendant in a defilement case, Onwuegbulam Nathaniel has petitioned the Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Kazeem Alogba over the conduct of one of the judges in the State Judiciary, Justice Sedoten Ogunsanya who he accused of persecution and revoking the bail granted to him by the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal.
In the petition written on his behalf by his lawyer, Mr Chinedu Nwosu, the petitioner accused Justice Ogunsanya of revoking the bail granted him by the appellate court without any reason other than his lawyer, Mr Victor Opara SAN withdrew from the case when he could no longer stand the conduct of the judge. He therefore pleaded with the Chief Judge to reassign his case to another impartial judge.
The petition reads: “We are counsel for MR. ONWUEGBULAM NATHANIEL (hereinafter referred to as our client) and on his firm authority and instruction we complain against perceived persecution of our client who is standing trial before his lordship S.S. OGUNSANYA of the criminal Division of the High Court of Lagos State Ikeja Division in Charge No. ID/4436C/201 between THE STATE OF LAGOS VS. ONWUEGBULAM NATHANIEL ;
Our client is standing trial on a case of alleged defilement before his lordship. Our client informed us that he made several applications before his lordship, Honourable Justice Sedoten Ogunsanya to be admitted to bail but his lordship in his wisdom declined admitting our client to bail. Our client had no alternative than to proceed to the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division in 2021 in an appeal against one of the rulings of his lordship, and the lords Justices of the Court of Appeal in a well considered ruling of the court delivered on the 30th of May 2022, meritoriously admitted our client, the Appellant to bail;
Our client was able to perfect the bail granted to him by the Court of Appeal and since then, our client has effectively presented himself during trial before the presiding Justice OGUNSANYA. As a matter of fact, our client has never failed or neglected to attend the sittings of the Court from the date of his arraignment, the perfection of his bail till yesterday the 23rd of February 2023 when the case came up last before his lordship;
Our client informed us that he has not had it fair going by the series of events that have happened in the course of the trail of this case by his lordship and these events came to a hilt on the 8th of February 2023 when VICTOR OPARA (SAN) of Victor Opara’s Chambers defending our client brought it to the notice of his lordship of his intention to withdrew his appearance for Defendant (our client) before his lordship;
Surprisingly, at the close of the proceeding of that day his lordship unilaterally and injudiciously revoked the bail of the defendant (our client) even when there was no formal application to that effect by the prosecution counsel and there was no justifiable course to warrant the action of his lordship in the absence of any action of our client militating and/or impeding against the bail conditions granted to him;
Our client took the action of his former defense counsel the learned Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in good faith and timely consulted our Chambers and effectively briefed us to take over the prosecution of his defense from the learned SAN which our chambers accepted and we were in court on the 14th of February to continue with the prosecution of the case of our client after the learned SAN move his application to withdraw his representation of our client before his lordship which was granted;
We were prepare and ready to proceed forthwith with the defense of our client as the business of the day dictated but his lordship in his wisdom demanded that we file an application for change of counsel to ensure seamless transmission in the record of the court and adjourned the case to 23d of February 2023 for continuation of trial.
My lord, permit us to state here that before the learned SAN finally bowed at from this case, he made a dispassionate appeal to his lordship to reconsider his order of revocation of the bail of the Defendant (our client) his lordship made on the 8th of February 2023 and his lordship in his wisdom deferred ruling on that application made by the SAN to the next adjourned date being the 23rd of February 2023.
However, we were taken aback when we appeared yesterday being the 231d of February 2023 and his lordship refused to acknowledge and/or accept our appearance and representation of our client (the Defendant) in position that our application for change of counsel was not yet served on the Prosecutor notwithstanding our readiness to proceed with the trial and our undertaking to endeavour to serve the prosecution on the following day. Even our oral application to his lordship to vacate his order of revocation of the bail granted our client by the Court of Appeal was not considered by his lordship on the ground that ”defendant has no representation before the court” and our client was unfairly remanded in custody till April 2023 being the next adjourned date;
In the instant case, the presumption of innocence and the right to bail of our client can no longer be secured or guaranteed by his lordship seized in this case notwithstanding that our client has religiously presented himself before his lordship for trial at all times.
We believe firmly that a court which could not found the judicial discretion to admit defendant (our client) to bail but is quick to exercise “judicial dexterity” to revoke his bail for no just cause other than to punish him for the offence of the learned SAN withdrawing his representation before the Honourable Court cannot be said to be fair to Defendant (our client).
Our application is with all due respect premised on the fact our client has strong belief that his lordship seized of the criminal trial of this Charge has shown strong bias against our client and our client do not believe in the ability of His lordship S.S. OGUNSANYA to dispassionately discharge the justice of this case without fear of favour.
Sir, with all due respect and for all intent and purposes our client has lost faith in the ability of his lordship S.S OGUNSANYA to dispense the justice of this case.
As much as we appreciate the notion that justice delayed is justice denied we must not lose focus of the fact that justice rushed is also justice crushed.
With this development, our client is much more convinced that the court seized of this case has been compromised. We believe that the sanctity of the temple of justice must be maintained at all times and the temple must be kept hallowed.
In the circumstances, we therefore humbly apply for the re-assignment of the case file to another judge of the Lagos State Judiciary Ikeja Division for a trial de novo and only that can restore the confidence of our client on the ability of the courts to do justice to all manners of men irrespective of their social and political standing in our society.
Find attached the ruling of the Justices of the Court of Appeal Lagos Division admitting Defendant to bail for ease of reference”.
However, the Chief Justice has advised the petitioner to apply to the court for “early hearing and bail”, since the case is part heard. He assured the petitioner that he will get justice.
In a letter signed by Deputy Chief Registrar(Special Duties), Mrs F.A Azeez, and dated March 9_ 2023, the Chief Judge assured the petitioner of fair hearing.
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