By Kehinde Adewole
Since a verdict of the Federal High Court in Abuja, ordered Danladi Umar, Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal to submit himself to the Nigeria Senate for investigation over physical assault on a private security guard in Abuja, Umar has launched an unrelenting attack on Justice Inyang Ekwo, who delivered the judgement.
Justice Ekwo had missed Mr Umar’s suit in which he sought to stop the Senate from probing issues surrounding his physical assault on a security guard at Bannex Plaza in Wuse area of Abuja.
In March 2021, a video surfaced online where Mr Umar was seen assaulting a 22-year-old security guard, Clement Sargwak, at Banex Plaza in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
Delivering judgement in the suit last April, Justice Ekwo, dismissed Mr Umar’s suit instituted against the Senate and others seeking to stop them from investigating him over the alleged public misconduct in Abuja on March 29, 2021.
Justice Ekwo held that the case of the CCT chairman lacked merit and had no cogent reason to stop the Senate from undertaking its constitutional functions.
The judge said Sections 88 and 89 of the 1999 constitution under which Mr Umar sought to be protected by the court did not confer any protection on him.
The judge further said as a public officer administering law relating to conduct of public officers, the plaintiff (Mr Umar) has no reason to institute the suit to stop the parliament from investigating a public petition seeking justice on moral standards.
The court also held that the Code of Conduct Bureau and Code of Conduct Tribunal Act 2010 was enacted by the National Assembly and as such, he is subject to investigation by the federal legislators.
Besides, the judge also said Section 2 of the Code of Conduct Bureau Act exposes Mr Umar to investigation by the National Assembly than another Nigerian.
The judge noted that it will be illogical for the CCT boss to seek to stop the senate probe as doing so will give an impression that he is above the law.
Justice Ekwo held that the declaratory reliefs that were sought by Mr Umar for injunctions against the senate could not be granted because the case lacked merit.
The CCT Chairman had in his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/ 671/2021, challenged the powers of the Senate to investigate him in an alleged assault perpetrated against a security guard at Banex Plaza in Abuja.
However, instead of challenging the outcome of the suit, Mr Umar elected to launch series of baseless allegations against Justice Ekwo, by using proxies to impugn the integrity of the Judge.
One of Mr Umar’s proxies, Mr Peter Omoruyi Igbinedion, has reportedly written a petition against Justice Ekwo at the Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB), a body that lacks the statutory powers to investigate a judicial officers over any form of misconduct.
There are a plethora of authorities and judicial precedence that it is only the National Judicial Council (NJC), that has the constitutional obligation to discipline Judge’s over issues of official misconduct.
But Mr Igbinedion has ignored this procedure and filed a frivolous petition against the Honourable Judge; accusing him of taking bribes from Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers in order to give judgement against a faction of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State.
With no shred of evidence, Mr Igbinedion accused Justice Ekwo of judicial misconduct.
The petition which was allegedly addressed to the Chairman of the CCB, reads in part:
“After the conduct of the Party Ward Congresses across various Wards in Edo State, Chief Dan Orbih and his team being dissatisfied with the outcome of the congresses, instead of approaching the appeal panel set up by the National Working Committee of PDP, rushed to Hon. Justice Ekwo’s Court to obtain a restraining order through ex-parte application against the PDP from recognizing and accepting its own results. Justice delivered violates the principles of judicial precedent and the provisions of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended and the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act”, Mr Igbinedion said in the petition.
”That in the light of the foregoing, Hon. Justice Ekwo is believed to have received certain financial inducements, which was obtained through third parties but now forms part of his personal assets, contrary to the contents of his assets declaration form with the Bureau and therefore abused his Judicial office for financial gains.
”That contrary to the provisions of Paragraph II of Part 1 of the Fifth Schedule of the 1999 Nigeria Constitution, as amended, Hon. Justice Ekwo being a public officer failed, refused and/or neglected to properly declare both his real and personal assets within the last four years and failed to submit himself for asset verification”, he said.
“That there is urgent need for the verification of the items in the asset declaration form of Hon. Justice I.E Ekwo, presently in the custody of the Bureau.
”That Hon. Justice I.E Ekwo of Court No. 5 of the Federal High Court, Abuja be investigated for all the above allegations and if found wanting, be consequently prosecuted before the Code of Conduct Tribunal.
“Ekwo hastily ordered PDP to use and recognize the list/ result prepared by Chief Dan Orbih and his allies. Even though there was an earlier order from the Edo State High Court validating the result of the PDP Ward congresses across the State. Vide Victor Enoghama & ors .v. PDP & ors, Suit No. B/408/2022.
”His Lordship Order was in contradiction to the earlier order of the Edo State High Court on the same subject matter and also operated as appeal against the earlier Order of the Edo State High Court”, he said.
He reiterated that the subject matter and material facts contained in the earlier judgment of the Edo State High Court is on all fours with the suit before Hon. Justice Ekwo and it was the outcome of the judgment of the Benin High Court that paved way for the conduct of the various Party primaries in Edo State ranging from House of Assembly, House of Representatives and Senate.
”It was after the conduct of the said party primaries that Hon. Justice Ekwo delivered a contradictory judgment invalidating the Party primaries already conducted. He further validated the results of the parallel primaries of Chief Dan Orbih’s faction. Again, His Lordship sat as an appellate court against the Judgment of Edo State High Court, which is contrary to Rule 5 of the Code of Conduct for judicial officers, thereby exposing the dignity of the judiciary to public ridicule and tarnishing the public confidence and impartiality of the judiciary,” the petition stated in part.
It is the norm in Nigeria’s legal practice and across the globe that when a party is dissatisfied with the judgement of a law Court, it has the right to appeal against such a decision at the Court of Appeal and where necessary, the Supreme Court.
But the CCT chairman and his band of unscrupulous characters have resorted to blackmail and character assassination of a diligent judge who labours day and night with the highest quarterly returns of judgements and rulings to the NJC in Nigeria’s history, owing to his prudent management of judicial time.
Allegations bordering on nondisclosure of Justice Ekwo’s assets could only have been made available to his traducers by Mr Umar, who has a working a relationship with the CCB as a sister agency.
These allegations are all made up my the dark forces that are bent on repressing the constitutional powers Judges to hear and determine cases on their merit.
It must be made clear that Justice Ekwo has nothing to hide and will clear his name before the appropriate authorities should there be any petition in that regard!
Kehinde Adewole is a public analyst