Conflicting Exparte Orders: NJC Warns, Bars Three Erring Judges from Promotion

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The National Judicial Council has barred three judges of Courts of concurrent jurisdiction who granted conflicting Exparte Orders in matters with same parties and subject matter from promotion to higher Bench for a period ranging from two to five years whenever they are due.

The Council took the above decision after its two days meeting held between 14th and 15th December, 2021.

The affected judges are Hon. Justice Okogbule Gbasam of the High Court of Rivers State, Hon. Justice Nusirat I. Umar of the High Court of Kebbi State and Hon. Justice Edem Ita Kooffreh of the High Court of Cross River State.

According to a press release by the NJC, even though there was no written petition, allegations of corruption or impropriety against the subject Judges, Council nevertheless, initiated investigation pursuant to its inherent disciplinary powers under the Constitution to unravel the circumstances that led to the spate of Exparte 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 Council, Hon. Justice Mary Peter-Odili, CFR agreed with the recommendations of the Investigation Committee set up in September 2021 as follows:

That Hon. 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 Exparte Order in Suit No: PHC/2183/CS/2021 between IBEALWUCHI EARNEST ALEX & 4 ORS AND PRINCE UCHE SECONDUS & ANOR, as there was no real urgency, in the circumstances of the matter, that would have required an Exparte Order.

His Lordship is also issued with a warning letter to be circumspect in granting such Exparte Orders in the future.

Council also resolved that Hon. 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 Exparte Order in Suit No: KB/HC/M.71/2021 between YAHAYA USMAN & 2 ORS AND PRINCE UCHE SECONDUS & ANOR.

He is also issued with a warning letter to be circumspect in granting such Exparte Orders in the future.

Hon. Justice Edem Ita Kooffreh of the High Court of Cross River State will not be promoted to 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 Exparte 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 warning letter to be circumspect in granting such Exparte Orders in the future.

The Council also placed him on its Watch-List for a period of two years.

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