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NJC recommends judges for dismissal, retirement

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Ade Adesomoju, Abuja

The National Judicial Council said on Friday that it had sanctioned a judge of Abia State High Court, Justice Ugbo Ononogbo, and a counterpart in the Zamfara State High Court, Justice Nasir Gunmi, for various acts of misconduct.

In a statement by its Acting Director of Information, Mr. Soji Oye, the NJC said it recommended Ononogbo for dismissal and Gunmi for compulsory retirement.

The NJC also issued a letter of “strong warning” to Justice D. O. Oluwayemi of the Lagos State Judiciary for granting an ex-parte order in Suit No: LD/2393LMW/16 “relying on an affidavit of urgency which disclosed no threat of destruction of rights, or interest, in the subject matter of the dispute without putting the other party on notice.”

It also issued a similar warning to Justice M. A. Savage of High Court of Lagos State, “for holding discussion with complainant’s counsel in Suit No: LD/179/2000, which he had judicially acted upon, and for serving as a bridge between him and the other party’s counsel.”

Oye said the NJC, under the chairmanship of the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, took the decisions at its 80th meeting held between December 14 and 15.

Ononogbo was said to have made two orders in a probate case, while lawyers and court officials involved in the case ended up paying to the Probate Registry the sum of N83m instead of N200m. Thus, the NJC said it reached its decision to dismiss the judge following its findings on a petition filed against the judge by Mr. Urum Ifegwu.

In the case of Justice Gunmi, the NJC recommended the judge to Zamfara State Governor, Abdul Aziz Yari Abubakar, for compulsory retirement for failing to deliver Chiroma Vs Forte Oil Plc, almost 23 months after the final addresses by counsel.

Apart from recommending the dismissal of Justice Ononogbo to the Governor of Abia State, “the Council also recommended that the Hon. Judge, the Assistant Chief Registrar, Probate Division of Abia State High Court, Udeka N. C., and E. M. Ojiako, Esq., be handed over to the police for investigation.”

“Council also decided to report E. M. Ojiako, Esq, to the Nigeria Bar Association’s Disciplinary Committee for investigation and that Abia State Judicial Service Commission should take appropriate action against Udeka N. C., the Assistant Chief Registrar, Probate Division after investigation of the allegations,” the statement stated.

Justice Gunmi, on his part, was said to have failed to deliver judgment in a case for 23 months in breach of the constitution which provides for a limit of 90 days.

The NJC said the allegations against Justices Ononogbo and Gunmi constituted misconduct contrary to Sections 294 (1) and (6) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended and Rules 3 (i), 11(ii) and 2 of the National Judicial Council Revised Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The sanctions imposed on the judges, according to Oye, are with immediate effect.

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