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Anti- graft war hits judiciary: Corrupt judges in hot soup as NJC hammers 2 judges

…Justices Ofili-Ajumogobia, Agbadu-Fishim face dismissal from the Bench
…How Magu’s petitions prompted NJC to recommend judges’ dismissal by Buhari
The National Judicial Council (NJC) on Wednesday unleashed its form of anti-graft war by recommending the dismissal of Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court, Lagos Division and Mr. Justice James Agbadu-Fishim of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria from office with immediate effect.

A statement signed by Director of Information National Judicial Council, Soji Oye, Esq. stated that the NJC under the Chairmanship of Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, took the decision at its 87th meeting which was held on October 3, 2018.

Explaining how petitions from the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mr Ibrahim Magu, led to the recommendation of the NJC to Buhari for the dismissal of the errant judges, Oye said,

“Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was recommended to President Muhammadu Buhari for removal by dismissal from office pursuant to the findings by the Council on the allegations of misconduct contained in a petition to the Council by the Acting Executive Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu,

alleging that Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia is a Director/Chief Executive Officer and sole signatory to Nigel and Colive Company contrary to the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

“Several personalities, individuals, government officials and business partners lodged funds into various accounts belonging to the Hon. Judge; and there was an ex-parte communication between the Judge and Mr. Godwin Oblah, SAN, during the pendency of his matter before the His Lordship.

The NJC added that it could not however consider other allegations in the petition on the grounds that they are already before a court where Ofili-Ajumogobia is standing trial, saying that it is leaving those matters for the trial to take its legal course.

The NJC also recommended Justice Agbadu-Fishim of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria to Buhari for removal by dismissal from office.

The NJC stated that the development is “sequel to the findings of the Council on the allegations contained in another petition by Magu, alleging that the Judge received various sums of money from litigants and lawyers that had cases before him, and some influential Nigerians, under the false pretence that he was bereaved or that there was delay in the payment of his salary.”

“This is contrary to the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Recommending the two errant judges for dismissal by Buhari, the NJC said, “In the interim, the Council, in exercise of its disciplinary powers under paragraph 21 (d) of the Third Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, “has suspended Hon. Mr. Justices R. N. Ofili-Ajumogobia and James T. Agbadu-Fishim with immediate effect pending their removal from office by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Regarding other errant judges, the NJC rejected the letter of voluntary retirement, purported to be with effect from the 1st of October 2018, submitted to it by Justice Joshua E. Ikede of the Delta State High Court.

This followed the findings on an allegation of falsification of age contained in a petition written by Zik Gbemre, National Co-ordinator of Niger Delta Peace Coalition. Council found that the Judge ought to have retired since 1st October 2016.

The NJC stated that the errant judge backdated his retirement to 2016 and therefore recommended to Delta State Government to deduct from the retirement benefits of the judge, all salaries received by him from October, 2016 till date and remit it to NJC which pays salaries of all Judicial Officers in the Federation.

The Council also decided to issue a Letter of Advice to Hon. Mr. Justice K. C. Nwakpa of High Court of Abia State to guard against unwarranted utterances in matters before him.

This was as a result of a complaint to the Council by one Princewill Ukegbu.

The statement also disclosed that, “The Council considered the reports of various Investigation Committees and dismissed the petitions written against Hon. Mr. Justice Yusuf Halilu of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Hon. Mr. Justice E. O. Osinuga of the High Court of Ogun State, and Justice E. O. Ononeze-Madu of the High Court of Imo State.

“The petition by Wema Bank against Hon. Mr. JusticeYusuf Halilu of the FCT High Court was dismissed because the allegation of misconduct was not established. The judge’s handling of the related matter did not amount to the alleged misconduct.

“The petition on allegation of inducement, bias and alteration of Ruling written by David Olawepo Efunwape, Esq. against Hon. Mr. Justice E. O. Osinuga of High Court, Ogun State was found to be false.

“The Council, therefore, decided to report David Olawepo Efunwape, Esq., to the Legal Practitioners DisciplinaryCommittee (LPDC) for appropriate sanctions for making false allegations against a judge.

“The petition written by Hon. Eugene Okechukwu Dibiagwu against Hon. Mr. Justice E. O. Ononeze Madu was dismissed by the Council for lack of merit. Council also decided to warn the Petitioner and asked him to apologise to the Hon. Judge for the false allegation of inducement.

“New petitions written against 26 Judicial Officers from the Federal and State High Courts were considered by Council, after which it resolved to empanel four Committees to investigate them.

“The remaining petitions were summarily dismissed for obvious and manifest lack of merit, being subjudice, concerning administrative matters, or that such petitions were matters for appeal.

“The Council dismissed petitions written against Justice J. O. Bada, Presiding Justice, Court of Appeal, Benin Division, Hon. Mr. Justice Abdul-Kafarati, Chief Judge, Federal High Court and Hon. Mr. Justices I. N. Buba, H. R. Shagari, R. M. Aikawa, O. E. Abang all of the Federal High Court; Hon. Mr. Justice Marshal Umukoro, Chief Judge, Delta State and Hon. Mr. Justice E. G. Timi also of the Delta State High Court.

“Others were those against Justice S. U. Dikko, Chief Judge, Nasarawa State, Hon. Mr. Justice P. N. C. Umeadi, Chief Judge, Anambra State, Hon. Mr. Justices A. O. Opesanwo, A. J. Coker both of Lagos State High Court, Hon. Mr. Justice C.I. Gabriel Nwankwo, President, Customary Court of Appeal, Rivers State,

Hon. Mr. Justices C. A. Okirie and G. O. Omeji both of Rivers State High Court, Hon. Mr. Justice Iniabasi Udobong of High Court, Akwa-Ibom State, Hon. Mr. Justice

S. O. Falola of High Court, Osun State, Hon. Grand Kadi, Sokoto State, Hon. Mr. Justice I. B. Ahmed of Katsina State High Court and Hon. Mr. Justice Patricia Mahmoud formerly of the Kano State High Court before her elevation to the Court of Appeal.”

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