APGA National Chairman, Chief Victor Umeh
By Christopher Isiguzo
National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, has petitioned the National Judicial Council (NJC), against the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innocent Umezulike, urging the council to ensure that due process is adhered to in the handling of the case against him, which is presently before the state High Court.
The APGA chairman had on September 19, 2012 asked Justice Umezulike to hands off his (Umeh’s) pending case in his court, insisting that that he was not confident he would obtain justice from the Chief Justice court.
While accusing the Chief Judge of bias and compromise in the said matter instituted by one Jude Okuli, Umeh asked that the case be transferred and assigned to another judge, who would do justice to the case.
However, at the last sitting of the court, instead of heeding Umeh’s plea, the Chief Judge adjourned the case to October 8 for hearing.
Irked by the development, Umeh Thursday petitioned the NJC alleging that the Umezulike 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 insisting that an ex-parte order cannot 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 September 17, 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 this 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 has remanded his ruling and would instead hear the main suit and deliver judgment on the preliminary objection and the 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.”
The APGA chairman noted that in his letter of September 19, 2012 to the CJ, “I requested the Chief Judge to transfer/re-assign the case to another judge”, adding, “I informed the Chief Judge that I have no confidence in obtaining justice in his court as I am reasonably satisfied that the Chief Judge is biased, has been compromised and is intent on causing a mischief for our party, APGA.”
According to him, since “July 25, 2012 till date, activities in our party had been halted because of the exparte order. Our party is now paralysed.”
He urged the NJC Chairman to urgently intervene by calling Justice Innocent Umezuruike to order, and ensure that the due process is followed.
Umeh said: “In this era of rule of law, as an ardent believer in the ideals of democracy, I have no doubt that judicial impartiality is an important hallmark of due administration of justice . I will be grateful if the Chief Judge of Enugu State is made to understand that every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to justice and fair hearing.”