Justice Auta, others to be prosecuted for corruption

The National Judicial Council (NJC) yesterday recommended that Justice Kabiru M. Auta of the High Court, Kano State should outrightly be dismissed as judicial officer and be handed over to the Police for prosecution.

The hammer of the NJC also fell on the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike and the presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Ilorin division, Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya who were penciled down for compulsory retirement.

Specifically, Director of Information of the NJC, Mr. Soji Oye said that the council will hand over Justice  Auta, to the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 1, Kano, for prosecution.

Oye said Justice Tsamiya was recommended for compulsory retirement from Office 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 Election Appeal Panel in the Owerri Division of the court during the 2015 general elections.

He added that the petition contained allegations of corruption, malice and vindictiveness, among others, as well as giving perverse and conflicting decisions on the same issue in similar matters in Appeal CA/OW/EPT/SN/50/201.

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The cases involved 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 Hon. Justice Mohammed Ladan Tsamiya thrice in his residence in Sokoto, Gwarimpa, Abuja and Owerri where, on each occasion, he demanded from him the sum of N200million to influence the Court of Appeal Panel in Owerri or risk losing the case.

For Justice I. A. Umezulike, the council recommended his compulsory retirement to the Governor of Enugu State, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, following 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 23rd October, 2014.

He 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.

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“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.

NJC further recommended that he 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.

Oye 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.

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“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.

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