Conflicting Rulings: Justice Abang Faces NJC Probe
NJC panel to grill Judge Sept.
Following recent conflicting rulings over the governorship tussle in Abia State and the leadership crises rocking the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, by Justice Okon Abang of the federal High Court Abuja, the National Judicial Council, NJC, has commenced discreet investigations on the judge.
Justice Abang is to face an NJC panel September. A highly placed Judiciary source at the weekend told Nigerian Pilot Sunday that some chieftain of the leading opposition party, PDP, have petitioned the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed and the NJC over alleged misconduct and abuse of office by Justice Abang.
According to the source, the NJC has already commenced secret investigation following the controversy in the botched convention of the PDP and the ruling that led to the sacking of Abia governor ,Okezie Ikpeazu, who was restored by the Appeal Court Thursday last week.
The source further added that the NJC in its September meeting will constitute a full blown panel that will grill the embattled controversial judge.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja division, restored Dr Okezie Ikpeazu as the duly elected governor of Abia State just as the court set aside the judgment of justice Okon Abang of the federal high court which on June 27th removed the governor from office.
Justice Abang removed Ikpeazu from office on account of supplying false information to obtain his party nomination for the 2015 governorship election.
The appellate court however, voided the legal action of justice Abang on the grounds that the originating summons relied upon by the judge to give the judgment did not comply with any known law in the country .
Justice Ibrahim Shata Bdliya who delivered one of the lead judgments in an appeal filed by Ikpeazu, held that Justice Abang erred in law by assuming jurisdiction in an originating summons that was not signed by any identifiable legal practitioner among the three lawyers that issued the said summons.
In the unanimous judgment of the court, the federal high court judgment delivered on June 27th was said not to have been competent, having been based on an originating summons that was invalid, null and void.
Apart from not signing the originating summons, the appeal court held that the suit filed by Dr. Samson Ogah did not disclose any cause of action because it was filed even before the appellant (Ikpeazu) submitted his documents to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
Justice Bdliya agreed with counsel to the governor, Chief Wole Olanipekunsan, that it was not the duty of the court to begin to search for the signatory to the originating summons to authenticate it as required by law.
Besides, the appeal court also held that although the originating summons was later amended, but said that an amended originating summon has no capacity to cure a defective and incurably bad originating summons being the foundation of the suit.
The appeal court further agreed with Olanipekun SAN that Justice Abang erred in law by making findings at the interlocutory level of case by taking a stance on issues in the main suit.
“He ought not to have given the final findings at the interlocutory level and his conclusion at the interlocutory level was a breach of fair hearing against the appellant (Ikpeazu) who was not given opportunity to use the substantive suit to prove his case.
The court also upheld the submission of Olanipekun SAN that because of the circumstances of the issues in the suit, the suit ought to have been instituted through the use of writ where witnesses can be called to make clarifications on the the disputed issues, rather than using originating summons that does not require the calling of witnesses.
In another Judgment by Justice Helen Morenikeji Ogunwumiju, the appellate court held that Justice Abang raped democracy in his order that the INEC should issue a certificate of return to Dr. Samson Ogah when there was no evidence of forgery of criminality against the appellant.
According to the court, the judgment of Justice Abang was grossly erroneous because it was based on inadequacy of tax receipt that cannot be visited on the appellant (Ikpeazu).
“After reading through the judgment several times, I was amazed at how the trial Judge arrived at his conclusion of perjury against the appellant when there was no evidence of forgery. To say the least, his findings are ridiculous.
“The Judge must have sat in his chamber, unilaterally assessed and computed the tax of the appellant and came to the conclusion that he did not pay the required tax. But let me say that courts are not allowed to speculate as the trial Judge has done in the instant case.
The trial Judge spoke from both sides of his mouth when in one breath, he claimed that he based his findings on supply of false information and in another breath, he came to the conclusion that the appellant in this matter committed perjury, even when there was no allegation of forgery and no allegation that he did not pay tax.
Justice Ogunwumiju also agreed with Olanepekun SAN, that the Federal High Court Judge turned the head of the law upside down in his conclusion that it was the appellant that should bear the burden of proof on the allegation made by Ogah.
“With respect, we disagree with him (Judge) in this conclusion because it is the person that makes allegation of falsehood that must prove it.”
The Appeal Court also held that Justice Abang erred when he imported the phrase ‘as at when do’ into the PDP 2014 guidelines.
“The Judge would not have imported the phrase into his findings if he had seen the copy of the PDP guideline. In this case, he violated the PDP guideline”.
“From whatever angle one looks at the judgment of the trial Judge, the decision of his court was grossly erroneous. The inadequacies of the tax receipt cannot be visited on Ikpeazu who scored the highest votes in the 2015 governorship elections as doing so will amount To Molest of democracy.”
In all, the appeal court set aside the judgment of Justice Abang delivered on June 27 for being a nullity and a miscarriage of justice that must not be allowed in law.
The court also awarded various sums of money against Ogah as cost.