Chuka Obele-Chuka, the fiery Onitsha-based lawyer and human rights activist has stirred the hornet’s nest with his strongly-worded petition, dated March 22nd, 2016, addressed to the Chairman, Code of Conduct Bureau, Abuja, and stamped received on April 8th, 2016.
The document, titled ‘Corrupt Enrichment and False Declaration of Assets By Hon. Justice Innocent A. Umezulike, Chief Judge of Enugu State: A Demand For Investigation’, states that the Enugu State Chief Judge be investigated for corrupt enrichment and false declaration of assets, since he failed to declare that he owns a choice property, valued at 100m naira ($502,000), in the Trans-Ekulu area of Enugu metropolis.
Reproduced here is the petition: “I write to bring to your attention a case of corrupt enrichment and false declaration of assets by Hon. Justice Innocent Azubike Umezulike, the Chief Judge of Enugu State.
I am aware that Hon. Justice Umezulike was called to the Nigerian Bar in or about 1980. Thereafter, Justice Umezulike became a lecturer at the Anambra State University of Science and Technology, (now Nnamdi Azikiwe University). He was then a man of humble status.
In 1993, Hon. Justice Umezulike was appointed a judge of the High Court of Enugu State. In accordance with the law, Justice Umezulike, on assumption of office, filled an Asset Declaration Form. Since then, Hon. Justice Umezulike has periodically filled Assets Declaration Forms and filed the same under oath with the Bureau.
In 1999, Justice Umezulike acquired a parcel of land known as Plot 546, Trans-Ekulu, Enugu. this was vide an Irrevocable Power of Attorney dated 8th day of January, 1999. A copy of the said Irrevocable Power of Attorney, registered as No. 57 at Page 57 in Volume 1450 of the Lands Registry, Enugu is herewith attached and marked ANNEXURE-1.
Further, after the acquisition of the land, the Hon. Chief Judge of Enugu State, Hon. Justice Innocent A. Umezulike, proceeded to erect very high walls around the land and thereafter erected two buildings on the land. The property is worth, by my estimation, about N100,000,000.00 (One Hundred Million Naira). Find herewith copies of photographs of the said property taken recently. They are marked ANNEXURE-2.
In or around the time of the acquisition of the land, Hon. Justice Umezulike was sitting as a judge of the Failed Bank Tribunal in Lagos…Permit me to state that nowhere in the various forms for Declaration of Assets which Justice Innocent Umezulike filed under oath between 1993 and 2001 did he include the aforementioned property. Not even in the one he filed this year!
The above can be confirmed from the various Asset Declaration Forms in your possession which Hon. Justice Umezulike filed with your Bureau. Ther is no mention of this land, or the buildings thereon…A search report issued on 21 March, 2016 (a copy of which I attach here as ANNEXURE-3) from the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development, Enugu, Enugu State showed that His Lordship is still the owner of the said property.
To further confirm His Lordship’s ownership of Plot 546 and his personal attachment to the property, he had buried his son therein some years ago. It is obvious that Hon. Justice Umezulike concealed the purchase and ownership of the said property and refused to declare it as one of his assets as required by law because the monies used to acquire the land and erect the gigantic structures therein were ostensibly proceeds of corrupt enrichment.
I therefore believe that the said land was not acquired nor the buildings erected from His Lordship’s legitimate earnings as it cannot be fairly attributable to his income at the time, explaining, perhaps, it’s non-inclusion in his Assets Declaration Forms.
I believe that from the above there is good reason to investigate the Hon. Justice Innocent Umezulike, the Chief Judge of Enugu State, for corrupt enrichment. Without doubt the concealment of the ownership of this property by the Chief Judge or his refusal to declare the property on his Assets Declaration Forms amounts to an offence under Section 15(1) and (2) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, Cap C15 Laws of the Federation.
As the declarations were made on oath before a High Court judge, any indictment on the concealment allegation, would naturally expose him to an indictment for perjury.
It is my hope that your Bureau would cause an expedited investigation of my complaints. It is further hoped that my complaints would be referred to the Code of Conduct Tribunal for the trial of the Chief Judge. Nobody should be above the law. Not even a Chief Judge.”