The National Judicial Commission (NJC) has recommended the dismissal and prosecution Ugbo Ononogbo, Abia state high court judge, for gross misconduct.
The NJC in a statement issued by Soji Oji, its information director, on Friday, said the judge’s order in a N200m suit was forged, but that he later endorsed it in a second order.
The council also recommended the retirement of Umar Nasir Gummi of Zamfara state high court for the same offence.
It suspended the judges pending the approval of its recommendations by their state governments.
“The National Judicial Council, under the chairmanship of the Hon Acting Chief Justice Walter S N “Onnoghen, CFR, at its 80th meeting which was held on 14th and 15th December, 2016 recommended the dismissal of Hon Justice Ugbo Ononogbo of the Abia state high court of justice and the compulsory retirement from office of Hon Justice Nasir Gummi of Zamfara state high court of justice with immediate effect,” the statement read.
“Hon Justice Ugbo Ononogbo, Abia state high court, was recommended for dismissal to the governor of Abia state, pursuant to the findings by the council on the following allegations inter-alia contained in a petition written against His Lordship by Mr Urum UdensiIfegwu.
“That the Hon Judge in suit No: HOH/25/2013; Mrs Nnenna Enweliku and 4 Ors Vs Udensi Dike Udensi and 2 Ors made a blanket order for the payment of unascertained amount as estate fee from the Access Bank account of late Lord Chief Dike Udensi Ifegwu to the probate registrar of the high court. The assistant chief registrar, probate division of the court, Mr Udeka UC was said to have altered the order of the Hon Judge in a letter to Access Bank requesting the bank to release the sum of N200, 000,000.00 only into the personal account of E M Ojiako, Esq, counsel to the applicant in the suit. A request which the bank refused to honour.
“The Hon Judge also granted a second order to vacate the first order directing the bank to pay any money assessed by the probate registrar for the estate fee of late Lord Chief Dike Udensi Ifegwu into the personal account of E M Ojiako, Esq, without ascertaining the assessment made by the probate registrar.
“Out of the N200, 000,000.00 withdrawn as a result of the second order, E M Ojiako, Esq, only paid the sum of N83, 000,000.00 to the probate registry.
“That there were discrepancies between the representations of parties in the order made by the respondent and the representation of parties in the record book of the court to which Hon Justice Ugbo Ononogbo admitted that he did not vet the order before signing same and that it was an oversight.
“Apart from recommending the dismissal of Hon Justice Ugbo Ononogbo to the governor of Abia state, council also recommended that the Hon Judge, the assistant chief registrar, probate division of Abia state high court, Udeka NC, and EM Ojiako, Esq., be handed over to the police for investigation.
“Council also decided to report EM Ojiako, Esq, to the Nigeria Bar Association disciplinary committee for investigation and that Abia state Judicial Service Commission should take appropriate action against Udeka NC, the assistant chief registrar probate division after investigation of the allegations.
“Hon Justice Umar Nasir Gunmi was recommended for compulsory retirement from office to His Excellency, Hon (Dr) Abdul Aziz YariAbubakar, governor of Zamfara state sequel to the findings of council following allegations against His Lordship:-
“That the Hon Judge failed to deliver judgement in Suit No: ZMS/GS/13/2013; ChiromaVs Forte Oil Plc, almost twenty-three months after the final address by all counsel in the suit, contrary to the constitutional provisions that judgements should be delivered within a period of 90 days.
“That the judgement in the suit was altered by changing the word ‘dismissal’ to ‘struck out’ to which his court registrar, Hayatu Wadata Bungudu admitted was done by him, after which he informed the Hon. Judge on phone, as he was out of the State at the time.
“That the Hon Judge assumed jurisdiction in the matter by a ruling, only to dismiss the same action 22 months after, for lack of jurisdiction, after the cause of action had lapsed.
“Council will write to the Zamfara State Judicial Service Commission to take appropriate action against Hayatu Wadata Bungudu, registrar of Hon Justice Gunmi’s court for altering his judgement.”
The NJC had come under severe criticisms for allegedly being soft on corrupt and inefficient judges but the new chief justice of Nigeria has vowed to weed out compromising judges.