The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), yesterday arraigned a former Enugu State Chief Judge, Innocent Umezuluike, before a State High Court in Enugu for alleged corruption.
Umezuluike appeared before Justice Anthony Onovo on a onecount charge of using his office to confer corrupt and unfair advantage. He is accused of receiving N10 million as donation from wealthy businessman Arthur Eze in February 2014, at a time Eze was a litigant in a pending and concluded civil matter before the former chief judge.
Eze, Chief Executive Officer of Oranto Petroleum LTD, according to the EFCC,made the donation at the launch of Umezuluike’s book “ABC of Contemporary Land Law in Nigeria.” The anti-graft agency said the money was drawn from the account of Oranto Patroleum LTD and paid into Umezuluike’s Zenith Bank account. The counsel to the commission, Wahab Shittu, told the court that the action is contrary to Section 19 of the Independent and Corrupt Practices and Other Related (offence) Act (Laws of the Federation) 2000.
The former chief judge, however, pleaded not guilty to the one-count charge. However,Umezuluike’s lawyer, Agu Gab-Agu, asked the court to grant him bail on self recognizance and to address him as “Honourable Justice”. He argued that the former chief judge was granted bail on self recognizance in a similar matter pending before the Federal High Court in Port Harcourt. The prosecuting counsel, Mr. Shittu, did not object to the bail request, but pleaded with the court for accelerated trial of the case. Justice Onovo granted the former chief judge bail in the sum of N1 million and ordered that he be addressed as Justice Umezuluike during the trial. The judge adjourned the case till October 26-27, and November 2-3, 2017, for definite hearing.