Dr John Idumange, a former aide to the immediate past governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Seriake Dickson has expressed dissatisfaction with the state commissioner for justice and attorney general, Mr Biriyai Dambo, SAN, over the handling of his pending case in court regarding the N3billion agric loan.
Idumange had raised the alarm and called for investigations into the management of the loan from the Central Bank of Nigeria, while also petitioning the EFCC and requesting that those fingered should be brought to book.
But the state government filed a sedition action against him in court and got him arrested. He was consequently arraigned and later granted bail.
While Idumange awaits the EFFC action against those he accused of mismanaging the loan, the state government is also after him for what they called a seditious publication.
In his petition to the NBA president, Idumange said he was particularly uncomfortable with the decision of the attorney general to apply to reassign the case him. He wants the NBA to call the justice commissioner to order.
But the commissioner told TNN over the telephone that he was not aware of the petition against him and added that the issue in question was before the court and therefore subjudice.
In the petition, Idumange said “I am Mr. John Idumange – a rights activist and civil society leader – a university lecturer domiciled in Yenagoa. The Bayelsa State Government received an Agricultural loan of Three Billion Naira (N3 billion) from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN. The first tranche of the loan was received at about March-April 2020. Government never made a statement on it because the tranche of N1.5 billion was supposedly misappropriated. The second tranche of N1.5billion was paid in February-March 2021. Realizing the body language of government in concealing and misappropriating the loan for farmers, I blew the whistle that the loan should be given to Bayelsa Farmers.
“The loan was specifically meant for farmers. In our facebbok discussion, I mentioned two government officials who are beneficiaries of the loan because I am privy to how the loan was shared among the political elites instead of allocating the loan to Bayelsa farmers. I had approached the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on the 8th of March 2021,EFCC to intervene to ensure the loan got to the farmers.
To forestall and scuttle investigations, I was promptly arrested on March 10th, 2021 at the gate of a broadcasting station where I was supposed to feature on a programme on accessing loans by farmers. I was detained for three day before I was arraigned in court on charges of sedition. At the law court, the Chief Magistrate refused to record my Counsels and said ‘I am here to rule on whether to remand somebody or not; I don’t know why up to nine lawyers are attending court for one man.’
“I was thus denied legal representation and the court refused to grant me bail. I was detained again for two days. The lead counsel, – who was the immediate Attorney-General of Bayelsa State A.S. Arthur esq. approached the High Court in Sagbama, which granted me bail, knowing that I had already lodged a petition of financial misappropriation and economic crimes against some highly placed government officials on March 8th, 2021.
“Upon hearing that I had been granted bail, the Attorney-General BiriyaiDambo SAN wrote to the Chief Judge of Bayelsa State, Hon. Justice Kate Abiri in a compelling tone, accusing Justice E. J Omukoro of bias and partiality, and strayed further to instruct the Chief Judge to transfer the said suit to another High Court where his bosom friend presides. This is because Hon. Justice J.E Omukoro recognized my fundamental rights to freedom of expression as stipulated in Section 39 of the constitution.
“As a highly esteemed professional body, I am aware that one of the institutional core objectives of the NBA is the maintenance of the integrity and independence of the Bar and the Judiciary.”
The justice commissioner, in his letter to the state chief judge, had requested the transfer of the case to another court/judge. In the letter, he created the impression that he lacked faith in the ability of the trial judge to handle the case.
“I hereby apply and request that Your Lordship transfer the subject suits (which are pending before His Lordship, the Hon. Justice E.G. Omukoro) to another Judge/Court, for hearing and determination.
“My Lord, Suit No. Suit No. SHC/7/2021 was filed and served on my office on Friday, 12/03/2021, at 4:00pm. The suit seeks the orders of the Honourable Court to quash the remand proceedings and order remanding Dr. John Idumange (the Applicant in the subject suits), made on Thursday, 11/03/2021, by Her Worship, Chief Magistrate Mirinn-Johnson. Please find attached, a copy of the Motion on Notice in Suit No. SHC/7/2021.
“The bail application in Suit No. SHC/5M/2021 was heard and granted ex-parte and the Respondents to the bail application were not accorded the opportunity to be heard and put forward reasons why the Applicant should not have been granted bail, thus infracting on the Respondents’ right to fair hearing.
“Dr. John Idumange attended the Magistrate Court for the subject remand proceedings on Thursday, 11/03/2021 and he appeared visibly physically healthy, hale and hearty. He required no physical assistance to bring him to Court to enable him attended the proceedings; and
“His Lordship, the Hon. Justice Omukoro heard and granted the Motion Ex-parte for the bail of Dr. John Idumage, pending the hearing of the fundamental rights application in Suit No. SHC/7/2021 (to quash the remand proceedings, amongst other reliefs).
“My Lord, it is my humble reckoning and view that it is the best and proper judicial practice for the Court to have directed that the Respondents be put on notice (with regard to the Motion Ex-parte for the bail of Dr. Idumange) especially in the face of a pending substantive application, and the fact that there was no evidence/proof that the Applicant was suffering from a life-threatening illness which warranted the urgency and instant dispatch by which His Lordship, the Hon. Justice Omukoro heard and granted the application for bail ex-parte (without hearing from the other side i.e the Respondents).
“In addition, even though His Lordship, the Hon. Justice Omukoro heard and granted the Motion Ex-parte for the bail of Dr. John Idumange, pending the hearing of the application in suit No. SHC/7/2021 (to quash the remand proceedings), it would appear that the grant of the ex-parte application for bail is tantamount to Justice Omukoro already taking a position and pre-judging the substantive suit, on the basis that the bail of the Applicant and his release therefrom from Prison Custody has already pre-determined a substantial aspect of the questions/issues which the Applicant submitted for determination in Suit No. SHC/7/2021, because if Justice Omukoro granted bail ex-parte, then it would further appear that indeed His Lordship is tilting towards the thinking that by issuing the order of remand against the Applicant, Her Wordship, Chief Magistrate Mirinn-Johnson acted ultra vires and as such the remand order ought to be set aside –before the Court even has the opportunity to hear the substantive suit on the merits.”