Chairman of the Caretaker Committee of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ebonyi State, Elder Fred Udeogu has dragged the State Chief Judge, Justice Anselm Nwigwe before the National Judicial Council (NJC) and Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) an ex parte injunction in the suit challenging Governor Dave Umahi’s decision to suspend the PDP State Executive Committee.
Udeogu had in the 4-page petition dated 7th December 2020 addressed to the NJC and CJN called for “an immediate investigation into the quick re-assignment of the case by the Chief Judge of Ebonyi State, to himself after the visit of the Governor of the State, Chief Dave Umahi.”
He observed that “Hon. Justice Ngene recused himself from hearing the matter following the objection raised by one of the respondents, that he had a blood relationship with Ebonyi State Governor, who had shown more than a passive interest in the matter, adding that the case was therefore subsequently remitted to the Chief Judge for re-assignment on the said 2nd December 2020”.
He alleged that “the Chief Judge met with the Governor on the 4th December 2020, who is sponsoring the Plaintiffs in the said matter for his political gains, and quickly assigned the matter to himself”.
He further claimed that “sequel to the meeting between the Chief Judge and the Governor on the 3rd December 2020, at about 1 pm, I got information that the Chief Judge of Ebonyi State, who had assigned the after to himself after the meeting with the Governor, sat and granted an ex parte application restraining the Caretaker Committee from acting”.
According to him, the “application was heard in an empty courtroom with only a seat for Mr Roy O. Umahi Nweze, the younger brother to the Governor, and another table and seat for the Chief Judge, as no other person, including members of the public could gain entrance into the Court, as the seats in the Court were all removed preparatory to the legal year fixed for the next day.”
While describing the action of the Chief Judge as “very disappointing”, he called for the Council’s intervention, stressing that: “If nothing is done urgently to forestall future occurrences, and correct the bad impression, given by the conducts of the Chief Judge of Ebonyi State, the image of the Judiciary in the State, will be exposed to public ridicule.”
According to the petitioner: “The matter was remitted for re-assignment on the 2nd of December, 2020, the Chief Judge re-assigned it to himself and granted an ex parte order on the 3rd December, 2020.
“I further urge you most respectfully Sir, to investigate the circumstances surrounding the sitting of the Court in a day, when there was absolutely no seat in the Court, consequent upon the leak year which was coming up the next day.
“I respectfully further urge you to investigate the circumstances surrounding the speedy grant of an ex parte order on the 3rd of December 2020, behind the back of parties who were in Court, on the 2nd of December 2020, the previous day, without as much as, putting them on notice,” .
He also urged the Council to “take urgent steps to redress the obvious travesty of Justice so as to sustain the hard-earned confidence the Judiciary enjoys as the last hope of the common man in the society,”.
Udeogu further claimed that “Hon. Justice Ngene recused himself from hearing the matter following the objection raised by one of the respondents, that he had a blood relationship with Ebonyi State Governor, who had shown more than a passive interest in the matter, adding that the case was therefore subsequently remitted to the Chief Judge for re-assignment on the said 2nd December 2020”.
Udeogu added that the sequel to the meeting between the Chief Judge and the Governor on the 3rd December 2020, at about 1 pm, I got information that the Chief Judge of Ebonyi State, who had assigned the after to himself after the meeting with the Governor, sat and granted an ex parte application restraining the Caretaker Committee from acting.”
Besides, Elder Udeogu in a petition entitled ‘Urgent need to recuse yourself from proceeding with the conduct of the case in Suit No: HAB/161/2020 and dated 9th December 2020; between Chief Barr Onykachi Nwebonyi & 2 Ors V Peoples Democratic Party & 11 Ors, addressed to the State Chief Judge, Justice Anselm Nwigwe, argued that justice would not be served.
“I am one of the defendants in this matter which you just recently reassigned to your Court and granted and ex parte order in favour of the Plaintiffs.
“I write to your esteemed office sequel to my earlier petition to the Chairman National Judicial Council, in respect of your handling of this matter.
“My Lord, the impression on any ordinary bystander, watching the proceedings in this matter, notwithstanding the petition, pending against your person at the National Judicial Council, would be, that justice will not be served in this case against the Defendants.
“It will be in the best interest of justice that My Noble Lord, recuses himself from further conducting proceedings in this matter pending the hearing and final determination of my complaint already pending before the NJC, in Abuja.
“A copy of my petition to the Chairman of NJC is attached herewith for your information, my Lord.”