A principal witness for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC in the case involving the erstwhile Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice, Innocent Azubuike Umezuluike ( before Justice A.O. Onovo of the Federal High Court, sitting in Enugu, Peter Eze on Thursday, November 2, 2017 told the court that Umezulike by accepting a gift from a litigant in a case pending before him, breached both the judicial and public service codes of conduct.
Eze made the statement while being led in evidence by prosecution counsel, Wahab Shittu.
“It was clearly evident that the defendant was biased in handling a case between Prince Arthur Eze (who had donated N10 million to the retired judge during his book launch) and my client, Diamond Bank in 2014.
“I had in a personal letter to the defendant explained that the reason for an application for the case to be transferred to another court was because a plaintiff in the case he was presiding had publicly donated N10 million to him which would create a wrong impression,” Eze said.
The witness further said that his suspicion of bias was vindicated by the actions in another case when the defendant (Umezuluike) refused to signed by the originating process he wrote for his client, Diamond bank in response to a judgment by the defendant in favor of the same Prince Arthur Eze, against two others (Major Concept Ltd and Major Okwuosa) concerning their property(which was mortgaged by the bank), in breach of court process .
“Thereafter, I became an object of abuse from the defendant anytime I appeared before him and who went to the extent of calling me satanic and devilish simply because I sought to transfer all my cases before him to other courts.”
Eze said all these necessitated his petition to the National Judicial Council to investigate the defendant which led to their recommendation that the governor should terminate the appointment of the former Chief Justice.
It would be recalled that the embattled former Chief Judge was arraigned on July 14,2017 on a one-count charge of use of office to confer corrupt and unfair advantage contrary to Section 19 of the Independent and Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offence Act (Laws of the Federation) 2000 .
The charge read: “That you Hon. Innocent Azubike Umezuluike ‘M’ sometime in February, 2014 at Enugu within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court being, the Hon. Chief Judge, High Court of Justice, Enugu (a public officer) did use your position to confer unfair advantage upon yourself by inviting one Prince Arthur Eze, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Oranto Petroleum Ltd who was a litigant in pending and concluded civil matters to wit:Suit No. E/388/2010; Prince Arthur Eze versus Diamond Bank and E147/2012,Prince Arthur Eze versus Major Concept Ltd respectively to the launch of a book titled “ABC of Contemporary Land Law in Nigeria” authored by you where the said Prince Arthur Eze donated N10,000,000.00 (ten million naira) only by a Fidelity Bank Plc Cheque in the account of Oranto Petroleum Ltd which you accepted and paid the sum of N10,000,000.00 (ten Million naira)only into your Zenith Bank Plc account number 1001189952 and thereby committed an offence.”
Cross examination of the principal witness, continues tomorrow, November 3.