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JUST IN: National Judicial Council Constitutes Panel To Probe Three Judges Over Conflicting Ex-parte Orders In Political Cases

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The National Judicial Council (NJC) has constituted a panel to probe three judges recommended to it for further investigation on allegation of reckless exercise of discretion in issuing conflicting ex-parte orders in political cases.

DECENCY GLOBAL NEWS learnt on Wednesday that letters of invitation have been dispatched to the Chief Judges of courts where the affected judges serve.

The letters, it was learnt, are to be handed to the affected judges by their courts’ heads, preparatory to their appearance before the panel next week.

The names of the judges concerned are currently kept secret pending the conclusion of the probe.

An NJC source confirmed the development, but said it was not in the practice of the council to reveal the identity of judicial officers being investigated.

“It is not in the tradition disclose the identity of judicial officers during investigation.

“In fact, the rules prohibit a petitioner from making public a petition against any judge. So, it would be wrong for the NJC to identify the three judges.

“As it is with the usual tradition of the NJC, at the conclusion of the investigation, the panel will submit its report to the council for consideration, following which a final decision would be made.

“It is at that point that a formal report would be issued, identifying the affected judges and disclosing the council’s decision,” the source said.

The three judges were recommended for further probe after the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and some other leaders of the Judiciary met last week, with seven heads of courts.

The meeting examined records of proceedings in cases in which conflicting ex-parte orders were recently issued in political cases.

Recently, High Courts in Rivers, Kebbi and Cross River and Delta states issued conflicting orders touching on the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The first was issued on August 23 by Justice Okogbule Gbasam, a vacation judge in the Degema division of the High Court of Rivers State in a suit marked: PHC/2183/CS/2021 filed by Ibeawuchi Alex, Dennis Amadi, Emmanuel Stephen, and Umezerike Onucha against Secondus and the PDP (as defendants).

Justice Gbasam, after listening to applicants’ lawyer, Henry Bello, made an order restraining Secondus from parading himself as a member or the National Chairman of the PDP.

The judge barred Secondus from performing the functions of the National Chairman of the party “or calling, attending or presiding over any meeting of the 2nd defendant (PDP) or any committee of the 2nd defendant at the Ward, Local Government or State level.”

He equally restrained Secondus from calling for any ward, local government or state congress of the PDP or setting up committees for such congresses or participating in any activity of the 2nd defendant whatsoever.

Justice Gbasam added that Secondus must not take any of these actions “whilst on suspension as a member of the 2nd defendant pending the hearing and determination of the motion on notice for interlocutory injunction.”

On August 26, Justice Nusirat Umar, also a vacation judge of the High Court of Kebbi State in Birnin Kebbi, gave an ex-parte order staying the execution of the Rivers State High Court’s orders removing Secondus from office.

Justice Umar gave the order while ruling in a suit marked: KB/HC/M. 170/2021 filed by three concerned members of the PDP –  Yahaya Usman, Abubakar Mohammed and Bashar Suleman -, with Secondus and the PDP defendants.

The judge, after hearing lawyer to the applicants, Ibrahim Jibril, proceeded to grant “an order of interim injunction staying the purported suspension of the first respondent (Uche Secondus) pending the determination of the substantive motion on notice No: KB/HC/M.170/2021 now pending before this honourable court.

“An order of this honourable court granting leave to the first respondent (Uche Secondus) to continue exercising all the constitutional powers of the office of Chairman of PDP (second defendant) as enshrined in both 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended and the Peoples Democratic Party’s constitution pending the hearing and final determination of applicant’s motion on notice.”

On August 27, Justice Edem Kooffreh, a vacation judge in the High Court of Cross Rivers State in Calabar restored the order by the Rivers State High Court in an ex-parte ruling on a suit, marked HC/240/2021n filed by Enang Wani.

Justice Kooffreh barred Secondus from resuming or visiting the party’s office as Chairman.

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