The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday July 14, 2017 arraigned a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice, Innocent Azubuike Umezuluike before Justice A.O. Onovo of the Federal High Court, sitting in Enugu, Enugu State on a one-count charge of use of office to confer corrupt and unfair advantage contrary to Section 19 of the Independent and Corrupt Practices and other related (Offence) Act (Laws of the Federation) 2000.
Umezuluike was said to have on February 2014 at Enugu, in his capacity as the Chief Judge of the State, invited one Prince Arthur Eze who, at that time, was a litigant in pending and concluded civil matters being presided by Umezuluike to the launch of a book he authored entitled “ABC of Contemporary Land Law in Nigeria,” where the said Prince Eze donated the sum of N10,000,000.00 (Ten Million Naira only) to the defendant.
The charge read: “That you Hon. Innocent Azubike Umezuluike ‘M’ sometime in February, 2014 at Enugu within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court being, the Hon. Chief Judge, High Court of Justice, Enugu ( a public officer) did use your position to confer unfair advantage upon yourself by inviting one Prince Arthur Eze, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Oranto Petroleum Ltd who was a litigant in pending and concluded civil matters to wit: Suit No. E/388/2010; Prince Arthur Eze versus Diamond Bank and E147/2012,Prince Arthur Eze versus Major Concept Ltd respectively to the launch of a book titled “ABC of Contemporary Land Law in Nigeria” authored by you where the said Prince Arthur Eze donated N10,000,000.00 (ten Million naira) only by a Fidelity Bank Plc Cheque in the account of Oranto Petroleum Ltd which you accepted and paid the sum of N10,000,000.00 (ten Million naira) only into your Zenith Bank Plc account number 1001189952 and thereby committed an offence.”
The defendant pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was read to him which necessitated prosecution counsel, Wahab Shittu to apply for a trial date.
However, the defence team led by Prof. Agu G.Agu notified the court of his pending motion for bail of his client and urged the court to grant the embattled former Judge bail on self recognizance, saying he has contributed to the advancement of the legal profession through his publications and had been attending trial since his he was granted bail in a similar case before a court in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
Justice Onovo thereafter granted the defendant bail on self recognizance.
The case has been adjourned to 26 and 27 October and November 2 and 3, 2017 for hearing. Justice Umezuluike is also standing trial on a four-count charge of non-disclosure and false declaration of assets before Justice J. K. Omotosho of the Federal High Court Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
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