Justice Acha of Edo State Judiciary in Messy Divorce Scandal

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Honourable Justice Joseph Itsebaga Acha, the second most senior Judge in the Edo State High Court hierarchy, is currently embroiled in a messy divorce matter involving Chief Leemon Ikpea, the Billionaire Oil Services magnate and Chairman of Lee Engineering Group of Companies and his wife of 39 years, Mrs. Agnes Ikpea.

Justice Acha, who has been in the Criminal Division of the Edo State High Court, is not known to be in the Family Court which adjudicates on divorce cases.

Justice Acha gave a bizarre ruling on the 17th February, 2021 in the case involving Chief and Mrs. Ikpea. Chief Lee Ikpea instituted the case at the High Court of Edo State, Benin, for a dissolution of his marriage to his wife of 39 years, Agnes. Curiously, Chief Ikpea instituted the case in Benin City, whereas he and his wife are domiciled in Lagos, and have no connection with Benin City. Reports indicate that the choice of Benin City may not be unconnected with Chief Ikpea’s long association with Justice Acha through their common Ishan heritage and the Catholic Church, and a desire to rush the divorce through a ‘friendly’ court. Indeed, this view was given credence by the strange ruling delivered by Justice Acha in this case. In the ruling, Justice Acha granted Chief Ikpea’s application for Mrs. Agnes Ikpea to vacate their family home in Banana Island, Lagos, and to refrain from causing him any harm.

Some legal experts hold the view that this ruling is a perversion of justice, as ordering Mrs. Ikpea to vacate her matrimonial home while the case is still before the court, has the effect of judging the case, even before it is heard in open court. According to them, Justice Acha has already shown his hand and prematurely decided the case.

Relying on this very strange ruling, Chief Lee Ikpea proceeded the very next day, 18th February, 2021, to engage thugs to physically throw his wife out of the home they shared. Mrs. Ikpea was not even allowed to put on any shoes or slippers before she was thrown out of her house, without any of her belongings.

As if that was not enough, Justice Joe Acha also granted a motion for an accelerated hearing of the divorce and adjourned the case to 3rd of March, 2021, barely 2 weeks later, even though none of the parties asked for an accelerated hearing in open court.

Many have expressed shock at the steps taken by Justice Acha in the matter, particularly as it is known that he is expected to replace the current Chief Judge of Edo State when she retires in May 2021.

Chief, Leemon Ikpea, the 64 year owner of Lee Engineering Services Limited Group of Companies, a Catholic, first married his wife, Agnes, under native law and custom, over 39 years ago. Around 20 years ago, seeking full compliance with the strictures of the Catholic faith, the couple renewed their vows at the St. Leo’s Catholic Church, Toyin Street, Ikeja Lagos. The couple have six adult children.

However, Chief Ipkea married a younger lady named Tina Ochuko sometime in 2002 under native law and custom, and thereafter, moved his new bride into his sprawling mansion in Banana Island, Ikoyi, Lagos, where he resided for many years with both women.

However, last year, in a fit of anger, Chief Lee Ikpea told his older wife, Agnes, that he wanted a divorce from her. This is notwithstanding that, Catholics who marry in a Catholic Church and under the Marriage Act, are not known to entertain thoughts of divorce.

This informed why Chief Lee Ikpea instituted proceedings at the High Court of Edo State, sitting in Benin City, raising curiosity as to why the matter was in heard in Benin City, whereas he and his wife both reside in Lagos, and do not have any connection with Benin City.

More curious is the strange court ruling delivered on 17th February, 2021 by Justice Joe Acha, granting an application brought by Chief Ikpea and ordered Mrs. Agnes Ikpea to vacate their family home in Banana Island, Lagos, and to keep away from Chief Lee Ikpea permanently. Relying on the strength of this ruling, Chief Lee Ikpea allegedly resorted to self help and proceeded the very next day, 18th February, 2021, to engage thugs to physically throw his wife out of the home they shared.