By Tony Edike
ENUGU – National Chairman of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Victor Umeh, has petitioned the National Judicial Council, NJC, Abuja, against the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innocent Umezuruike, asking the council to quickly call him to order and ensure that due process of the law was followed strictly in the case against him before the state High court.
Umeh had on September 19, 2012, written to Justice Umezuruike requesting him to hands off his (Umeh’s) pending case in his court, saying he was not confident he would obtain justice from the CJ’s court, having accused the judge of bias and compromise in the matter instituted by one Jude Okuli.
He asked Umezuruike to transfer and assign the case to another judge who would do justice to it.
But Umezuruike at the last sitting of the court, rather than transfer the case to another judge as requested by the defendant (Umeh), adjourned the case to October 8 for hearing and was silent on Umeh’s request for his withdrawal from the case.
Following the development, Umeh petitioned the NJC alleging that the CJ erred in his handling of the case, especially by refusing to rule on the preliminary objection which he (Umeh) brought before the court, and was duly argued by both counsels.
Umeh said the CJ extended the life span of the ex-parte order he made against him on July 25, 2012, by extra 48 days against the High Court Rule of Enugu State that says an exparte order could not last beyond 14 days.
“By the action of the CJ, the ex-parte order which ought not to last more than 14 days was extended to 55 days without any request by any of the parties in the matter.
“By 31st July 2012, the CJ took full arguments on notice of preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the case. The CJ adjourned the matter to 17th September 2012 for a rendition of the considered ruling of the court on the notice of preliminary objection.
“In adjourning the matter, the CJ stated that ‘if this court accedes to the contentions of the defendants/ applicants on any of the above issues, this suit shall legitimately come to an end. …In the event, I shall adjourn the case for a considered ruling on the merits.
“In the circumstances, the interim order of theis court shall endure against the parties and against the convention of any APGA Executive Committee Meetings as stated under the order until the court’s rendition of a ruling which I now fixed for the 20th day of September, 2012,” Umeh recalled.
However, on September 17 when the ruling ought to have been delivered by the CJ, Umeh said, to the amazement of the people gathered in court, the CJ declared that he had reserved ruling and would instead hear the main suit and deliver judgement on the preliminary objection and main suit together.
This, Umeh contended in his letter to NJC, “has exposed the CJ as being desperate to get into the main matter and deliver judgement against me, knowing that the notice of preliminary objection was strong enough to have legitimately terminated the suit, the suit being grossly incompetent, as APGA was not a party to the suit.”