The National Judicial Council (NJC) has wielded the big stick against three High Court judges for issuing conflicting ex parte orders.
Two of the judges — Okogbule Gbasam and Nusirat Umar — will not move to the “higher Bench” in the next two years, it said, while the third, Edem Kooffreh of the High Court of Cross Rivers State, will remain on the same spot for five years.
Gbasam is a judge of the Rivers State High Court while Umar is of the Kebbi State High Court.
The trio received warning letters which also placed them on a watchlist by the NJC which found them culpable of issuing conflicting orders in cases involving the former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus.
A statement by the NJC Director of Information, Soji Oye, said the decisions were reached at a meeting presided over by the NJC Deputy Chairman, Justice Mary Peter-Odili.
Oye’s statement partly reads: “The NJC rose from its two days meeting held on 14th and 15th December 2021, with a resolution to bar the three judges of courts of concurrent jurisdiction who granted conflicting ex parte orders in matters with same parties and subject matter from promotion to the higher bench for a period ranging from two to five years whenever they are due.
“Even though there was no written petition, allegations of corruption or impropriety against the subject judges, council nevertheless, initiated an investigation pursuant to its inherent disciplinary powers under the Constitution to unravel the circumstances that led to the spate of ex parte orders granted by these courts of coordinate jurisdiction over matters bearing same parties and subject matter.
“The meeting which was chaired by the Deputy Chairman of the council, Hon. Justice Mary Peter-Odili agreed with the recommendations of the Investigation Committee set up in September 2021 that Justice Okogbule Gbasam of the High Court of Rivers State be barred from elevation to higher Bench for two years whenever he is due, as he failed to exercise due diligence in granting the ex parte order in suit No: PHC/2183/CS/2021 between Ibealwuchi Earnest Alex & 4 others and Prince Uche Secondus & another, as there was no real urgency, in the circumstances of the matter, that would have required an ex parte order.
“His Lordship is also issued with a warning letter to be circumspect in granting such ex parte orders in the future.
“Council also resolved that Justice Nusirat I. Umar of the High Court of Kebbi State be barred from elevation to higher Bench for two years whenever due, having found fundamental defects and non-compliance with the law in granting the ex-parte order in suit No: KB/HC/M.71/2021 between Yahaya Usman & 2 others and Prince Uche Secondus & another.
“He is also issued with a warning letter to be circumspect in granting such ex-parte orders in the future.
“Hon. Justice Edem Ita Kooffreh of the High Court of Cross River State will not be promoted to a higher Bench for five years for allowing himself to be used as a tool for “forum shopping” and abuse of Court process in suit No: HC/240/2021 between Mr. Enang Kanum Wani and Uche Secondus, as it was evident that, in granting the ex parte order, he was seised of earlier orders of the High Courts of Rivers and Kebbi States, being courts of coordinate jurisdiction with his.
“He is also to receive a warning letter to be circumspect in granting such ex parte orders in the future.
“The council also placed him on its watch-list for a period of two years.”