NJC queries Judge for allegedly receiving N10m donation

By The Citizen

The National Judicial Council, NJC, has queried the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike over an allegation that he accepted N10 million donation from a litigant before his court.

The allegation was contained in a petition that was forwarded to the NJC by an Enugu-based legal practitioner, Mr. Peter N. Eze.

The CJ was alleged to have invited a litigant who was a plaintiff before him to the launching of a book he wrote, and accepted a donation of N10 million from the litigant.

Besides, Eze, in his petition with Ref No. MSC/23/2016, dated February 19, 2016, alleged that the CJ 'altered a court order, for the purposes of assisting a judgment creditor to gain possession of a parcel of land in dispute.'

The petitioner, who cited instances of misconduct against the CJ, told the NJC that the Judge struck out a plaintiff's application, and still awarded punitive costs against the defendant. Eze said he had earlier forwarded two petitions dated October 27, 2014, with reference No. MISC/45/2015, and another one on December 9, 2014, to the NJC. He told the legal body that the CJ issued a warrant of arrest against him, an action he said was connected to the fact that he criticised the N10m donation.

'My Lord I believe that this order for my arrest was made in bad faith and was a gross abuse of judicial power and my fundamental rights. It was meant to intimidate me and cower me for complaining about the earlier misconduct of Justice Umezulike.

'My Lord, I have suffered grave persecution in the hands of Hon. Justice I. A. Umezulike. I brought the matter to the attention of the NJC in 2014 and sadly I was told that the NJC was satisfied with the explanation Hon. Justice Umezulike had given to my complaints.

'Unfortunately I was never shown a copy of the reply Justice Umezulike sent to the allegations I made. 'In the meantime, I have been harassed by the police, sent on exile and my practice has virtually ground to a halt. All because I pointed out to Justice Umezulike that it was wrong for a judge to invite a litigant who is a plaintiff in his court, to a launching of a book written by him, and accept a donation of N10,000,000 from the litigant.

'It is my fervent prayer that this time, my complaints are seen to be grave enough to warrant a panel of enquiry being set up to investigate Hon. Justice Umezulike', the petitioner added.

Meanwhile, the NJC, through a query that was signed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, gave Justice Umezulike 14 days to respond to the allegations.

The query with Ref No. NJC/S.14/HC.EN/1/IV/327, read: 'I forward herewith a petition Ref No. Msc/23/2016 dated February 19, 2016, against you by one Mr. Peter N. Eze on the above subject matter. 'The petition speaks for itself. I shall be glad to have your comments within two weeks from the date of your receipt of this letter, please.' Vanguard.