By Tony Edike
ENUGU—AN Enugu State High Court presided over by the State Chief Judge, Justice Innocent Umezulike, Monday, granted an interlocutory injunction restraining Chief Victor Umeh from performing the functions of National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), pending the determination of the substantive suit before the court.
The Court also restrained Umeh, his agents or proxies, from expelling any member of the party.
In a swift reaction, Chief Umeh said described the decision of the Chief Judge as a “travesty of justice”, saying “the struggle for democracy and justice is painstaking and APGA will surely overcome this brazen judicial ambush by Justice Umezulike.”
The Enugu CJ who ruled on the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction brought before his court by Jude Okuli, who challenged the legality of Umeh’s position as National Chairman, noted that the motion was to be heard on July 29, but was stalled by numerous interlocutory motions brought by the defendant, Umeh.
He held that since the defendant has not filed any defence, the motion is unchallenged and went ahead to rule on the motion. “The motion on notice for interlocutory injunction succeeds. The defendant is hereby restrained from taking steps as Chairman of APGA and expelling any member pending the determination of the substantive suit” Umezulike said.
Umezulike, who had earlier said that he would not vacate the interim order he made against Umeh on July 25, 2012 until the appeal filed by him (Umeh) was decided upon, however, vacated the ex-parte order which restrained Umeh from taking steps to convoke a national, state or local government executive committee of the party or expelling any member of the party pending the determination of the motion on notice.
The judge struck out two motions for stay of proceedings and his disqualification from the suit and awarded a cost of N20,000 against the defendant on each of the motions.
He therefore adjourned judgment on the substantive suit sine die, adding that hearing notices would be issued to all the parties when the judgment is ready.
Reacting to the judgment, Umeh described what happened in the court as “travesty of justice”, stressing that the actions of Justice Umezulike had clearly vindicated his earlier held view that he was procured and compromised to deliver judgment against him in this matter.
“A reflection over Justice Umezulike’s conduct in this matter from inception made me to come to the conclusion that he was galloping through the proceedings to satisfy those who have hired him to do this dirty job. You will recall that on 25th of July, he made an ex-parte order against me and against APGA that was not a party in the suit. On July 31st against clear provisions of Enugu State High Court Rules, he extended the order without any application by parties and adjourned the matter to September 17.
“You will also recall that on the same July 31, we took two arguments on our notice of preliminary objection to the suit and the Chief Judge stated that if objection succeeds, the matter will end. He adjourned the matter to September 17 to rule on the preliminary objection. On September 17, he made a volt face and refused to deliver ruling on challenge of jurisdiction, which was fully argued on July 31.
“Instead, he made a volt face and overruled himself and now declared that he will hear the substantive suit and deliver judgment on both the preliminary objection and the substantive suit. Procedurally, he was bound to deliver his ruling on preliminary objection on September 17. On that same date he refused to vacate the ex-parte order made on July 25th, saying it is a matter left for Court of Appeal to decide” Umeh said.
The APGA boss recalled that after reviewing Justice Umezulike’s conduct, he knew he would not obtain justice in his court and applied that the matter be re-assigned to another judge to handle the case and wrote a petition to the National Judicial Council (NJC) and copied him (Chief Judge).
Umeh said that on Friday, October 5, after Justice Umezulike had refused to withdraw from the case, he filed a motion, asking him to disqualify himself from the suit, but in line with his prediction, the Chief Judge refused to disqualify himself and went on to hear pending applications on the matter, before proceeding to grant interlocutory injunction against him and vacate the ex-parte order, which he said only the Court of Appeal can vacate and that he cannot compete with the appellate court.
Umeh said all these show that he (Umezulike) is a biased judge and has been corrupted to subvert justice, but noted that whatever he has done would remain temporary as they cannot stand the test of unbiased judicial adjudication.
Consequently, the APGA boss called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) to quickly intervene in this matter to prevent Justice Umezulike from further ridiculing Nigerian judiciary, as Justice is not for the highest bidder. He called on the CJN, Hon. Justice Aloma Muktar to quickly act on a petition that has been lodged in her office against Justice Umezulike.
“The whole kangaroo trial being executed by Umezulike should be halted immediately. As a believer in Rule of Law and judiciary, I will continue to challenge all actions of Umezulike on this matter, so that Nigerian judiciary will weed out people with his disposition” Umeh said