EFCC arraigns former Enugu CJ over alleged corruption
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned the immediate past Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice Innocent Umezulike (rtd) before an Enugu High Court, presided over by Justice Anthony Onovo, on alleged corruption charge.
He is being prosecuted over a N10million donation allegedly made during his book launch while in office in 2014.He was accused of using his position to confer unfair advantage upon himself by “inviting one Prince Arthur Eze, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Oranto Petroleum Ltd, who was a litigant in pending and concluded civil matter to wit: suit No. E33/2010, Prince Arthur Eze versus Diamond Bank Plc and E/147/2012, Prince Arthur Eze versus Major Concepts Ltd, respectively,” which he was presiding over to his book launch.
According to the charge sheet No. EHC 174C/2017, Eze allegedly made donation of “N10million by a Fidelity Bank Plc cheque drawn in the account of Oranto Petroleum Ltd” to the book, titled ‘ABC of Contemporary Land Law in Nigeria.”
The former Chief Judge was allegedly to have accepted and paid the money into his Zenith Bank Plc account number. The offence was said to have been committed sometime in February 2014.
Umezulike had pleaded not guilty to the charge read to him yesterday, upon which his Counsel, Prof Agu G. Agu, applied for his bail.Justice Onovo granted him bail in the sum of N1million and on self-recognisance as a former jurist, holding that a Federal High Court in Port Harcourt had also granted him bail on self-recognisance in a matter he is involved in.
Before adjourning the matter to October 2 and 3 and November 26 and 27, this year, for definite hearing, the Judge warned against slanting of reports of the proceedings, as well as trial in the media.
What looked like a melo-drama erupted moments after the matter was called, as Agu protested the inability of the Prosecution Counsel, Wahab Shittu, to address the former Judge properly in the charge sheet, which merely addressed him as “Innocent Azubuike Umezulike- Defendant.”
Agu observed that the defendant remains an “Honorable Justice” and has received one of the highest awards in the land, Order of Federal Republic (OFR) and sought that he be properly addressed before the hearing could go on.
Shittu had apologised over the error, saying the matter was being pursued with the “greatest respect to the former Honorable Justice” and prayed the court to act accordingly, which was granted by the court.