Timipa Jenkins Okponipere, a lawyer and human rights activist, is seeking to unseat Hon Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili, whom he describes as “Africa's most corrupt judicial officer," from the bench of the Supreme Court of Nigeria,
Named as 1st, 2nd and 3rd respondents in a suit, filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, are the National Judicial Council (NJC), Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili, and the Attorney General of Rivers State.
Mr. Okponipere is asking the court for an order compelling the NJC to recommend to President Muhammadu Buhari the immediate and compulsory retirement of Justice M. U. Peter-Odili from the Supreme Court bench for alleged violation of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of Nigeria.
When the suit came up for hearing before Justice Anwuri Chikere -a wife of a People's Democratic Party federal lawmaker from Rivers state-on February 24, 2016, Mr. Okponipere was arrested on the orders of Justice Mary Peter-Odili.
He has since then been remanded at Kuje prison in Abuja on trumped-up charges of impersonation and forgery by a Chief Magistrate Court sitting at Wuse Zone 2.
That magistrate court has refused to grant the lawyer bail and the police prosecution team has also on two occasions—March 17, 2016 and April 4—failed to commence his trial.
The matter has been adjourned to April 25, 2016 to hear Mr. Okponipere's motion to quash the two-count charge.
Mr. Okponipere's troubles with the Peter-Odili's began sometime in December 2006 when he led his law firm, First Law Solicitors, to conduct a referendum on corruption and politically-motivated killings in Rivers State under the former governor Peter Odili and Justice Mary Peter-Odili as First Lady of the state.
Following the critically acclaimed referendum, Dr. Odili lost the presidential primary election of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) held on December 12, 2006 at the Eagle Square, Abuja. The former governor also lost out in the shadow race for the PDP Vice presidential ticket, as Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was declared the running mate to Alhaji Umaru Yar'Adua, the eventual winner of the presidential ticket.
Dr. Odili and his spouse, Justice Mary Peter-Odili reportedly blamed Mr. Okponipere as the architect of their loss of the PDP presidential and vice-presidential tickets, and promptly got him arrested and charged before Justice Biobele Georgewill of the Rivers State High Court on January 17, 2007.
The matter subsequently progressed from the Rivers State High Court to the Court of Appeal (Port Harcourt Division) and eventually, to the Supreme Court in 2010.
By that time, however, Justice Mary Peter-Odili was already a Justice of the apex court, and she eventually sat on the Supreme Court panel which heard and determined the suit on February 8, 2013: a criminal appeal in which her spouse was the Chief Complainant and Prosecutor against Mr. Okponipere.
Following his dissatisfaction with the role played by Justice
Mary Peter-Odili in the matter (Suit No. SC 250/2010), Mr. Okponipere filed Suit No. FHC/ABJ/CS/273/'13 at the Federal High Court, Abuja to enforce his fundamental right to fair hearing and to seek the removal of Justice Mary Peter-Odili from the Supreme Court bench.
Mr. Okponipere who is on record as recently filing a fundamental rights application at the Federal High court in Abuja on behalf of Charles Okah, (the alleged mastermind of the October 1, 2010 bombing) seeking, among others, conjugal visitation rights, rights to procreation and rights to marry in prison for all Nigerian prison inmates, believes that "Hon. Justice Mary Ukaego Peter-Odili of the Supreme Court of Nigeria is Africa's most corrupt judicial officer".
In his words, "Hon. Justice Mary Peter Odili's sole purpose at the Supreme Court is to protect the corrupt legacy of her spouse and his political associates,” asserting that she would otherwise have recused herself from taking any part in Suit No. SC 250/2010.