* Summons Meeting of Judges
* CLO Backs NJC
While the general consensus is that Mr. Innocent Umezulike, the not-so innocent sacked Chief Judge of Enugu State, got off lightly with compulsory retirement on proven charges of fraud, the fact seems oblivious to him yet.
Credible sources within the headquarters of the Enugu State judiciary reveal that the disgraced judge has allegedly spent the entire weekend after his forcible retirement by the National Judicial Commission (NJC) cocooned in the Chief Judge’s chambers with key staff carrying on the official functions of Chief Judge nonetheless.
Impecaable sources alleged illegal activities include signing and backdating of court orders, allocating accommodation meant for judges to his cronies, notably Vincent Aneke the Court Director of Litigation, and his accomplice in the proven allegation of forging a court order over a case which predated Mr. Umezulike’s appointment as a judge with Mr. Umezulike’s signature thereon as judge, although he was not yet a judge when that order was made.
As if these acts of impunity were not sufficiently gross, Mr. Umezulike has summoned a meeting of all the judges of the Enugu State judiciary fixed for Tuesday, 4th October 2016 in spite of the directive by the NJC that he is immediately suspended from office pending the formalization of his compulsory retirement.
The SMS by which the judges were summoned from this 08033306548 number reads:“Good morning my lord. I am directed by Hon. the Chief Judge to invite you for an emergency meeting on Tuesday, 4th October,2016 at the High court auditorium by 10am.
“I have further directive to inform Hon. Judges of the High of Justice that there will be no sitting that day to enable Hon. Judges attend to this all important meeting. Thank you my lord and God bless. CR .”
Sources close to the Enugu Judiciary claim that Hon Justice Umezulike surreptitiously obtained a copy of the Report of the NJC Panel headed by The former President of the Court of Appeal, Umaru Abdullahi which he has distributed to the High Court Judges and which Report is slated for discussion at the said meeting. Our sources in the NJC also disclosed that the Report must have been given to Justice Umezulike by one Eugene Odukwu, a Director at the NJC, who sat as the secretary of the Investigative Panel.
Meanwhile, palpable joy was felt throughout Enugu and particularly in the Enugu High Court premises on Friday 30th September 2016 upon the news of his removal.
As Chief Judge, Mr. Umezulike was notorious for circumventing due process, for instance, the long established tradition of appointing the most senior Chief Magistrate as Chief Registrar, because the most senior Chief Magistrate, Mrs. Linda Okibe requested him to put down in writing his oral instructions to her to discharge and acquit accused persons standing trial in her court, among many other examples.
Indeed the stench of corruption in the magistracy in Enugu State was so prevalent that less than three month ago the Governor of Enugu Sate, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, held a meeting with the former Chief Judge and all the magistrates in Enugu State where he accused them of granting bail to armed robbery and kidnap suspects.
His handling of the impeachment of the former Deputy Governor of Enugu State,Sunday Onyebuchi, over poultry rearing in Deputy Governor’s lodge (aka Chicken Impeachment) was so dissatisfactory that the Rescue Enugu Group had called for his probe by the NJC. He was accused of handpicking a panel of compromised associates of ex-Governor Chime and his acolytes, which barred the public and press from and impeachment trial and indicted the ex-Deputy Governor against facts made available to it.
It will also be recalled that Mr. Umezulike was himself capriciously foisted as Chief Judge of Enugu State outside due process by Governor Chimaroke Nnamani in place of the most senior judge at the time, Hon. Justice Ralph Agbo, now presiding justice of the Court of Appeal Owerri Division.
Umezulike has had a running battle with his colleagues in the judiciary both at the state and the federal level. In 2012, Umezulike almost lost his job following a complaint made by Chief Victor Ume, the APGA chairman at that time, to the then Chief Justice of the Federation, Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, complaining about the judgment Umezulike delivered removing him from office.
In a lecture titled “Appointment of Judicial Officers: Roles of the Federal and State Judicial Service Commissions/Committee, the National Judicial Council, the President and State Governors and the National and State Houses of Assembly” which Justice Umezulike delivered at the All Nigeria Judges Conference on 24th November 2015, the Hon. Chief Judge cast aspersions on Judges of the Court of Appeal and the Chief Justice of Nigeria as follows:
“Influx of Exiles to the Court of Appeal
In my view, the exiles are those who have no legitimate business being at the Court of Appeal for now.
.. Another group of exiles are those who were considered by the National Judicial Council for appointment as Chief Judge, President of the Customary Court of Appeal and so on. They eventually were not appointed. At the NJC, cases were sometimes made to grant them the indulgence of going to the Court of Appeal to mitigate their pains without any consideration whatsoever of those qualities of tendencies upon which they were denied appointment as Head of Court or Chief Judge or President Customary Court of Appeal.”
The Chief Justice of Nigeria
However where a FEMALE is to be considered for appointment as Chief Justice of Nigeria, the National Judicial Council must ensure that she is married, and, or has a stable home. The stability of the home is very critical to the success of the occupant of such paramount office with plenipotentiary powers. Criminologists believe that women with unstable homes and who are not in any stable marriage and occupy high public offices tend to be irascible, prickly and paranoid. And these are tendencies which are unsuited for the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria with its plenipotentiary powers.”
Ironically, he will be remembered, among other not-so-good legacies, for the easy with which he dissolved marriages and perfected divorces. Findings show that he was the only judge that heard divorce cases as he used his offices to assign all such cases to his court.
Within the Enugu State justice delivery sector, expectations are pregnant with hope that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi will write his name in gold by nominating the current most senior judge in the state to cleanse the Augean Stable left behind by ex-Chief Judge in the Enugu Judiciary.
Meanwhile, the Civil Liberties Organisation, CLO, has backed the NJC on the sack of the ex-Chief Judge, insisting his conduct during his 17-year tenure as CJ was “not befitting of a judicial officer”.
Member of CLO Board of Governors, Danjuma Gambo said: “This is commendable. We urge the NJC not to relent and further purge the judiciary of elements like Umezulike. This will send a signal that the judiciary as the last hope of the common man is to be trusted”.