The 15th Chief Judge of Lagos State, Justice Olufunmilayo Atilade at the weekend transferred a controversial criminal case before a Magistrate (names withheld) to another magistrate in the same jurisdiction. The Chief Judge stated that the case has to be transferred after “thorough investigation.”
On April 13, 2015 when the case came up in court, the magistrate had raised an alarm that her life was under threat as she had received letters at her residence from the suspects.
She said: “Let the world know about it so that if anything happens to me and any member of my family the whole world will know who to hold,” adding: “Somebody is alleged to be in possession of firearms and he wrote letters to threaten my life, analysing my marital status, my family background, where I live and who I live with and how I move in and out daily.”
Sulaiman and Kehinde, two of the children of a deceased steel merchant, Chief Abdul Razak Sanusi are currently standing trial before the court for allegedly being in possession of firearms and disrespecting the order of court, in what started as a family dispute over inheritance with some of their siblings including a deputy director in a ministry in the state, who is currently serving at the Lagos State Safety Commission.
The Sanusi brothers had in a petitioned dated April 15, 2015, urged the Chief Judge to investigate the allegations of the magistrate and to transferring the case from her as they felt they could not get justice from her.
They stated: “We are sad and distressed over this baseless accusations as they are calculated to paint us as criminals to the public. Unless this charge is transferred to and heard by another magistrate, we stand convicted by (the magistrate) even before the trial starts before her.”
The petitioners reminded the Chief Judge of their petition to her office dated October 29, 2014 wherein they accused the magistrate of acting the script of one of their siblings, the deputy director.
In the 2014 petition, Sulaiman Sanusi had alleged that their sibling was using her connections in the system to “unlawfully oppress and intimidate, and compel us to relinquish control of the management of our father’s company to her.”
He alleged that he was arrested and detained by officers of the Zone 2 of the Nigerian Police over allegations that he defrauded his father’s company that he manages the sum of N6 billion. The following day, October 17, 2014, he was arraigned before the Magistrate at Igbosere magistrate court at 2.30 pm, on a totally different charge of showing disrespect to a court order and possession of firearms.
He stated that in the process of his arrest, the police searched his office and took possession of a dane gun, a family relic displayed in their late father’s office. For this reason, he was charged with possession of fire arms. He claimed that rather than signing their production warrant to ensure his bail, the magistrate used her private door and left the court premises. Because of this, they were taken to Ikoyi prisons where they spent three days.
In response to all the allegations and counter allegations, Justice Atilade, through the Deputy Chief Registrar (Legal), Mrs. O.A Okunuga, said that after thorough investigations, the case has been transferred to another magistrate. The letter dated May 5, 2015 stated:
“I am directed by the Hon. Chief Judge of Lagos State, Hon Justice O.O Atilade (Mrs.) to refer to your petition dated October 29, 2014, in respect of the above subject matter, and to inform you that after a thorough investigation of your petition, my Lady has directed that the matter be transferred to another magistrate for further adjudication. Kindly liaise with the Registrar of Court 6 for further information.”
The suit is still expected to come up on May 11, 2015.