It was gathered that the National Judicial Council has sacked the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike; a Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya; and Justice Kabiru M. Auta of the High Court of Justice, Kano State.
The sack was announced by the NJC, which is headed by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, in a statement on Friday.
While the council recommended both Justices Umezulike and Tsamiya for compulsory retirement, it outrightly dismissed Justice Auta from service.
The council will further hand over Justice Auta to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 1, Kano for prosecution.
According to the spokesperson of the NJC, Soji Oye, Justice Tsamiya was recommended for compulsory retirement to President Muhammadu Buhari pursuant to the “Findings” by the Council in the petition written by Nnamdi Iro Oji against him and Hon. Justices Husseini Muktar, F. O. Akinbami and J. Y. Tukur, all Justices of the Court of Appeal, who sat on the Election Appeal Panel in the Owerri Division of the Court during the 2015 General Election.
Oye added that the petition contained allegations of corruption, malice, vindictiveness and giving perverse and conflicting decisions on the same issue in similar matters in Appeal CA/OW/EPT/SN/50/201.
The cases involves are that of Chief David Ogba Onuoha Bourdex Vs Hon. Mao Onuabunwa & Anor; CA/OW/EPT/SN/47/2015; Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu & Anor Vs Hon. Mao Ohuabunwa & Ors; and CA/OW/EPT/HR/61/2015: Nnamdi Iro Oji Vs Nkole Uko Ndukwe & 16 Ors.
The NJC said that during deliberations, it found that there was evidence that the petitioner met with Tsamiya thrice in his residence in Sokoto, Abuja and Owerri, where on each occasion he demanded from him the sum of N200 million to influence the Court of Appeal Panel in Owerri or risk losing the case.
For Justice Umezulike, the Council recommended his compulsory retirement to the Governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, sequel to the findings by the Council on the allegations levelled against him by Barrister Peter Eze.
The petitioner had alleged that the Hon. Chief Judge failed to deliver judgement in Suit No E/13/2008: Ajogwu V Nigerian Bottling Company Limited, in which final addresses were adopted on October 23, 2014.
Eze added that the judgement was however delivered on March 9, 2015, about 126 days after addresses were adopted, contrary to constitutional provisions that judgement should be delivered within a period of 90 days.
The petitioner further stated: “Hon. Justice Umezulike, OFR, in Suit No E/159M/2014, Ezeuko Vs Probate Registrar, High Court of Enugu State and 3 Ors ordered the arrest of Mr. Peter Eze by police and be brought before his Court after the matter was amicably resolved and judgement entered on terms of Settlement.
“That the Hon. Chief Judge in a speech delivered by him to the Eastern Bar Forum on Friday 4th March, 2016, openly made uncomplimentary remarks containing vulgar language against the Petitioner, contrary to Rule 1.3 of the National Judicial Council Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers.
“That at the time of the book launch of the Hon. Chief Judge, donation of N10 million was made by Prince Arthur Eze during the pendency of the two cases in His Lordship’s Court, both of which Prince Arthur Eze has vested interest.”
In the case of Justice Auta of the High Court of Justice, Kano State, he was recommended to the Kano State Governor, Alhaji Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, for dismissal and be handed over to the police for prosecution following the findings of the Council on the allegations levelled against him by Alhaji Kabiru Yakassai.
The petitioner alleged that he paid the sum of N125 million into an account approved by the Judge.
The NJC said: “The Petitioner also made cash payment of N72,000,000.00 (Seventy-five Million Naira) to Justice Auta in several instalments through his Personal Assistant, Abdullahi Bello, ostensibly for the purpose of assisting a former Chief Justice of Nigeria who had just been appointed to secure accommodation and for the Petitioner to be in turn rewarded by the award of some contracts by the said Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“That Hon. Justice Auta facilitated telephone communications in his house between the Petitioner and purportedly the former Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria on the other end.
“That Hon. Justice Auta facilitated meetings between the Petitioner and a lady who introduced herself as the purported Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria in a Prado Jeep, escorted by armed Police Officer in a hotel in Kaduna.”
According to the Council, the allegations against the three Judicial Officers constitute misconduct contrary to Section 292 (1) (b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended and Rules 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 2.1, 3.2, 3.7, 4.1, 4.2, 8.4a, 13.1, 15.2 of the 2016 Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.