The embattled judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Justice Abubakar Talba, who gave a controversial judgment involving the self-confessed pension thief, Mr. John Yakubu Yusuf, a former director in the police pension management, was yesterday docked by the National Judicial Council (NJC) over the matter.
The investigative panel set up by the council is specifically drilling the jurist over allegations of miscarriage of justice. Given the seriousness of the allegations, which might lead to his being forced out of service, the judge had hired the services of 14 lawyers, including three Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs) to defend him. His travails followed a petition brought against him by a Non-Governmental Organization ( NGO), Anti Corruption Network, headed by a former member of the House of Representatives, Dino Melaye.
In the said petition, the group described justice Talba's judgment as a frivolous drama, miscarriage of justice and outrageous mockery of the Nigerian judiciary. Talba had on January 28, 2013 delivered a judgment convicting Yusuf, who pleaded guilty to the three-count charge of gross misappropriation upon which he was arraigned by the EFCC. The judge sentenced Yusuf to two years imprisonment with an option of fine of N750, 000, which the convict paid and walked away a free man.
The public outcry that trailed the judgment received the attention of the NJC, which set up a three-man investigative panel headed by a retired justice of the Court of Appeal to look into the matter. When the panel sat yesterday, the embattled high court judge was put in the dock, where he was examined and cross-examined. It was gathered that the panel sat from 10.30am to 4.30pm, within which Melaye asked Justice Talba, whether there was any arrangement between him [Talba] and the EFCC on a custodian order, which he ignored, but the judge said there was no such agreement.
Talba, however, admitted that the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs brought the amended charge to his office before filing. He was also asked by Melaye whether it was the procedure for counsels to bring their processes to the judge’s office before filing, but our sources revealed that the chairman of the panel overruled Melaye. The sources also revealed that justice Talba sworn not to know the convicted Yusuf and that if Yusuf is to be arraigned among some criminal, he [Talba] could not identy him.
In a presentation made by Melaye, the executive secretary of the anti-corruption network, the group said justice Talba had earlier presided over a controversial Kenny Martins' police equipment scam. According to Melaye, the matter was handled in a manner which suggested compromise on the part of justice Talba.
"The accused persons who were charged with stealing N1.3 billion out of the N7.7 billion police equipment fund were freed by justice Talba despite of the evidence led by the prosecution which had implicated them." The panel adjourned sitting till today when parties are expected to adopt addresses.