Loss of Confidence: APC writes CJ, demands Transfer of case file

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The acting Chairman and secretary of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Edo State, Col. David Imuse (Rtd) and Lawrence Okah respectively have asked the Edo Chief Judge to transfer the case file in SUIT NO: B/177/OS/19 to a fair and Just Judge.

The duo made this call in a letter to the Chief Judge of the State and copied the National Judicial Council.

Below is a copy of the letter made available to  BarristerNG

The Chief Judge of Edo State
Edo State High Court,
Benin City,
Edo State.
14th January, 2020

RE: ANSELM OJEZUA ESQ & ORS. VS COL. DAVID IMUSE & ORS (SUIT NO: B/177/OS/19): LOSS OF CONFIDENCE IN HONOURABLE JUSTICE V.O.A OVIAWE: DEMAND FOR THE TRANSFER OF THE CASE FILE TO A FAIR AND JUST JUDGE

We the undersigned 1st and 2nd Defendants are acting Chairman and Secretary of All Progressive Congress, Edo State Chapter.

This letter has become necessary because of the brazen and obvious partisanship the aforementioned presiding Judge has displayed from the inception of this case till date.

We hereby cite some of these actions to show that presiding judge has a personal interest in the matter contrary to the interest of Justice, which the court ought to uphold at all times.

1. We were at home on the 22nd of November, 2019 the day the Send-forth ceremony was held for the out gone Chief Judge when we read everywhere on the social media that Justice V.O.A Oviawe has given an order against us. When we investigated the story that went viral, we were told that it is not possible because there was a circular from the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Benin branch and the Edo State judiciary that no court will be sitting on that date in honor of the retiring Chief Judge, Hon. Justice Esohe Ikponmwen.

a. Contrary to the above directives, Hon. Justice V.O.A Oviawe sat and granted an order of Interim Injunction against us on that day. Even as laymen, we are aware that interim order cannot be granted against an action that has already been completed. This was the same application that was made to the Federal High Court in Suit No: FHC/B/CS/133/2019 on the 15th of November and that court ordered that they should put us on notice, but rather the claimant secretly ran to the Edo State High Court to get the same Order In respect of which the Federal High Court directed us to show cause why it should not be granted on the 18th of November, 2019 which we did by filing all necessary application before that Court.

b. On 21/11/19 the then C.J had stopped coming to the office and was unavailable to assign the matter.

c. On 22/11/19, both NBA & Judiciary issued a circular that there would be no sitting due to the activities in respect of the retirement of Justice Esohe Ikpomwen.
Which activities Include:
• Swearing in
• Interdenominational service
• Valedictory session
• Reception — which ended at about 4PM.

d. The Honourable Justice V.O.A Oviawe was specifically selected for the matter and had to leave an important event like the valedictory session to grant an interim order in this case out of special interest, while the valedictory session was on.

e. It is common knowledge that most of the matters in which the State Government has an interest like this one are usually assigned to him.

2. Furthermore, we are aware that an order of that nature being Interim has a lifespan of seven days. No application for renewal was argued by the claimant but the Court also refused to vacate same as if the Judge has a personal interest in the matter.

3. That our Counsel filed an application to challenge the jurisdiction of the Court and to set aside the interim order granted for abuse of Court process, but the Court ruled against us given itself jurisdiction in the matter.

4. Immediately the ruling was delivered and the matter adjourned to the 13th of January, 2020, the Counsel to the claimant brought an application for the substituted service of form 48 on us and for it to be published on National dailies.

5. We directed our Counsel to receive the service on our behalf even when we are aware that no attempt was made to serve it on us personally, but the judge refused to allow our Counsel undertake the service, and the judge ordered that the service of the said form 48 be published on National dailies, apparently, playing the script of the claimants and top Government officials of Edo State, which is to embarrass us and reduce our rating in the eye of the public because we are aware that it could have been served our counsel on our behalf or even pasted on our last known address if they could not serve us personally.

6. After we observed the biased demeanor of the judge and the miscarriage of Justice, we instructed our lawyer to file an appeal against the ruling and the records of the Court were duly transmitted to the Court of appeal and appeal entered with Appeal No: CA/B/05/2020. We are aware that at such point, the position of the Law is that the lower Court can no longer entertain any application before it as the court of appeal had become vested with Jurisdiction of the matter. There was nothing urgent in this matter. The same Judge had previously granted an order to maintain status quo. Why was he desperate to hear application concerning the matter instead of leaving it to the Court of Appeal?

7. Our Counsel strenuously argued this Position of the Law on the 13th of January, 2020 with plethora of Supreme Court and Court of Appeal judgments affirming this position and the Counsel to the claimants did not cite any authority to the contrary and he was even ready to take the application for Interlocutory Injunction on another day that the Court may adjourn it to after the appeal has been determined, but the Court still went ahead to order the Claimants Counsel to take their application for interlocutory injunction. Everybody in court was surprised at the strange behavior of the judge. He did not even bother to consider the application for stay of proceedings pending before the court, but prompted the Claimant Counsel to move his application for interlocutory Injunction and subsequently adjourned to the 20th of January, 2020 for ruling.

8. We have it on good authority that Justice Oviawe plans to rule in favor of the Claimant’s application for interlocutory injunction despite the fact that the matter is now within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal. This would undoubtedly cause miscarriage of Justice and untold hardship to us. We do not believe we can get Justice from the judge as he obviously and grossly abused a laid down legal procedure that a lower court cannot determine any application brought by any of the parties when an appeal is already filed and all records of the Court transmitted to the appellate Court, with the Appeal entered on the list of cases.

9. Consequent upon the above, we humbly beg that you immediately transfer this case to another judge that will fairly determine it without any bias as the current judge has shown by his actions, demeanor and attitude that he has a personal interest in the matter which is contrary to the interest of justice which the judiciary is supposed to preserve. That the claimants are already celebrating the impending grant of the interlocutory injunction even when the Judge has not delivered the ruling. It would be unfair to allow this ruling to be delivered by a very biased Judge. We would also report his conduct to the National Judicial Council.

Accept the assurance of our highest esteem.

Thank you.

Yours faithfully,

Col. David Imuse (Rtd.)
Chairman, All Progressive Congress (APC), Edo State

Lawrence Okah
Secretary, All Progressive Congress (APC), Edo State

Cc:
Hon. Justice V.O.A Oviawe
High Court No. 10
Benin City.

National Judicial Council, Abuja.

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