The Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike has been queried by the National Judicial Council(NJC) over an allegation that he accepted N10 million donation from a litigant before his court. This allegation was contained in a petition that was forwarded to the NJC by an Enugu-based legal practitioner, Mr. Peter N. Eze.
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. According to the petition with Ref No. MSC/23/2016, dated February 19, 2016, Eze stated that,“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.”
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.”