By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—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.”