Published On: Tue, May 28th, 2013

Justice Okeke Accuses S’Court Judge of Attempting to Influence Case against Cecilia Ibru

Former MD of Defunct Oceanic Bank, Mrs Cecilia Ibru

A replica of what happened between a former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Aloyius Katsina-Alu and the suspended President of the Court of the Appeal, Justice Ayo Isa Salami, played out Monday at the Federal High Court, when a retired judge of the court, Justice Okechukwu Okeke, accused a serving Supreme Court judge, Justice Clara Ogunbiyi, of trying to influence a case involving the convicted former Managing Director of Oceanic Bank, Mrs. Cecelia Ibru.
Justice Okeke, accused Justice Ogunbiyi of being behind his recent travails with the National Judicial Council (NJC).
The NJC, which is being chaired by the CJN, Justice Mariam Aloma Muhktar, had recently handed a serious caution to Justice Okeke over what it termed “numerous petitions against him.”
But Okeke, who spoke at a special valedictory court session held in his honour by the Federal High Court to mark his retirement from the bench, said contrary to the impression created by the NJC, it was rather Justice Ogunbiyi who tried to influence her orders in a case before him.
Okeke recalled that his travails started on March 1, this year when he issued an order empowering the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) to take possession of some property forfeited to the federal government by Ibru.
“On March 6, I received a call from the Honourable Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim Auta, that Honourable Justice Clara Ogunbiyi of the Supreme Court of Nigeria was furious with me for granting leave to AMCON which led to the ejection of her daughter and
son-in-law from No. 5A, George Street, Ikoyi, Lagos,” Justice Okeke recalled, adding that an application to set aside the leave was later filed on March 7.
“On March 8, one Funke Ogunbiyi came to my chambers at about 9.04 a.m; completed the visitor’s form in which she stated her address as No. 5A, George Street, Ikoyi, Lagos and phone number 08099912658. She was led into the Chambers. She introduced herself as daughter of
Honourable Justice Ogunbiyi of Supreme Court. She said her mother directed her to tell me to discharge the order of March 1, as there was no basis for the order. I advised her that since they have filed the Motion on Notice to set aside the order that their counsel should meet the Registrar of the court for a date for their motion,” Okeke explained.
He urged the NJC to publish the said petition against him and his response unedited in the media, saying apart from the fact that such publication would be in line with the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act, it would also afford the citizens the opportunity to form their opinion on the merit and demerit of the said petitions.

He said: “This is my story for which I was seriously warned in the electronic and print media on April 26 and 27. As I bow out, I will like to be remembered as a victim of injustice in the Nigerian Judiciary,” Okeke concluded.
Justice Auta, who is also a member of the NJC, said he only allowed Okeke to say his mind because he (Okeke) was entitled to his opinion.
Speaking on the virtues of Justice Okeke, Auta, described the retired judge as a courageous and fearless judge, who handled cases before him with experience and candour.
There were other goodwill messages from eminent legal minds like Lagos State Attorney General and Justice Commissioner, Mr. Ade Ipaye; Chairmen of Lagos and Ikeja branches of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Taiwo Taiwo and Monday Ubani respectively, among others.
Taiwo, in his speech, said it was unfortunate that judges were becoming endangered species, and that such dangerous trend should stop in the interest of justice.
Justice Salami had accused Justice Katsina-Alu of asking him to pervert the course of justice in case at the Court of Appeal in Sokoto

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