It appears that as other countries of the world are working hard to make progressive leap, Nigeria and her justice system appears to have dashed the common man’s hope in her because of her continual miscarriage of justice and her black market operations. And William Shakespeare would ask in such situation, if correction lies in the hand that committed wrong, to whom shall we complain; and Douglas Anele will add that…the ability to speak against injustice is an essential component of human nature that cannot be completely stifled.
The ruling of Justice Onyinye Anumonye (Judge of Neni High II) on the land dispute between Abba and Ukwulu-Ukpo communities before it on Tuesday, 19th May, 2020 was not only surprising, but also an embarrassment to the Nigerian judicial system.
The argument of the Judge that the Supreme Court judgment is final and cannot be revisited or re-heard by any other court in the country is in place, but one thing is clear, it is either the Judge has a poor understanding of the intent of the Supreme Court Judgment, which I won’t want to believe, or that he had a predetermined mindset to pervert justice to suit the whims and caprices of his benefactors and sponsors. This is even when the Supreme Court Judgment had asked all the parties involved in the case to revert back to the trial court, a judgment that doesn’t require any expertise to understand; or is the Justice Onyinye Anumonye saying that the Supreme Court does not have such powers to ask parties in a case to back to the trial court when there is perception of miscarriage of justice?
For the records, the people of Abba community had only applied for the substitution of the names of their witnesses in the land dispute with her neighbours as almost all the names previously used as witnesses have joined their ancestors. Unfortunately, rather than grant the prayer made by Abba community or state reasons why such prayers cannot be granted by the court, Justice Onyinye Anumonye left the crux of the matter before his table to grant a prayer that was never sort for by the people of Ukwulu-Ukpo communities, a practice which is strange in law, making his action suspicious.
The people of Abba community have been wondering why the Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Onochie Anyachebelu would assign such a sensitive case between her and the people of Ukwulu-Ukpo communities to a Judge who was appointed merely three months ago with little or no experience, given that the matter have lingered for almost 50years, hence would have been better handled by an experienced Judge which is not in shortfall in the State Judiciary. This argument is premised on the fact that the action of Justice Onyinye Anumonye has further exposed the Nigerian judicial system to shame and ridicule.
The Chief Judge of Anambra State, Justice Onochie Anyachebelu, should have understood that the matter before Justice Onyinye Anumonye won’t have received the expected neutrality and untainted justice for the following reasons:
It was uncovered that Justice Onyinye Anumonye was trained in school by Barr. Nnamdi Ibegbu (SAN), one of the lead counsels for Ukpo in the land dispute with Abba
It was also revealed that Justice Onyinye Anumonye served at one time or the other under Barr. Ikpeazu Onyechi’s (SAN) chamber. This is the same Ikpeazu who has represented Ukpo community several times in court since the legal battle with Abba community in the land dispute.
Also, Barr. Nnamdi Ibegbu (SAN) single-handedly sponsored the coronation of Justice Onyinye Anumonye as an Ozo title holder in Onitsha community; a ceremony known for its expensiveness and money sapping events.
The trio of Barr. Nnamdi Ibegbu (SAN), Barr. Ikpeazu Onyechi (SAN) and Justice Onyinye Anumonye are all from Onitsha, and have a common link long before this time. How then do you expect same Justice Onyinye Anumonye to deliver any judgment that won’t be in favour of either Barr. Nnamdi Ibegbu (SAN) or Barr. Ikpeazu Onyechi (SAN) when both have been of immense help to his attaining his present position as a judge and other sundry favours done to him by both men in the past?
Based on the premise of number 6 (a, b, c and d) above, one would have expected Justice Onyinye Anumonye to have excused himself in the case as soon as it was assigned to him by the Chief Judge of Anambra State, which is the standard practice in almost all judicial systems in modern world, knowing fully well that his sentiment was definitely going to override his neutral sense of judgment in the matter. But because he has an ulterior motive and mission to accomplish, he went ahead to do the biddings of his benefactors by perverting justice.
One would have ordinarily expected Justice Onyinye Anumonye to be cautious of two standing facts before allowing himself to be cajoled into taking such inglorious stand (Judgment) in the Abba and Ukwulu-Ukpo land dispute before him:
Did it ever occur to him that it would have been impossible for Abba community to have been granted a warrant of possession as the plaintiff in the case in an Awka High Court, Anambra State on 15th February, 2019 in Suit No: A/53/75 & A/11/77 if truly the Supreme Court had ruled in favour of Ukwulu and Ukpo communities as he was deceived and misled to believe.
How did he think Abba community would have been able to obtain a restraining interlocutory injunction against the Nigerian Police, Ukwulu and Ukpo communities, and their agents to restrain from any further obstructing of the business activities in the Oye Abba market (part of the disputed land) from the Federal High Court seating in Port Harcourt, Rivers State under the revered legal icon, Hon. Justice J. K. Omotosho in suit No: FCH/PH/CS/188/2019, and obtained in on Friday 13th September, 2019; if truly the Supreme Court judgment was in favour of the people of Ukwulu-Ukpo communities as he has been misled to believe.
I will conclude by referencing Elie Wiesel who opined that, “there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest”. The people of Abba cannot allow this black-market miscarriage of justice led by Justice Onyinye Anumonye to stand. Justice Onyinye Anumonye and her cohorts must understand that the journey has just begun, and Abba community will appeal this broad day robbery of justice at the Appeal Court very soon.
It must be noted that Prince Arthur Eze, the main financier of the Ukwulu-Ukpo faction of the land dispute has once claimed that the people of Abba cannot withstand him in the case as he was going to buy over the judiciary if that is where Abba community has put in their last hope having bought over the Nigerian Police which had been used to terrorize the people of Abba in the past. Therefore, the action of Justice Onyinye Anumonye cannot be unconnected to Prince Arthur Eze’s claim as the action of the Judge is a true pointer to the assertion. This connecting web of injustice and illegality cannot be allowed to flourish unchallenged in Nigeria, as it is causing more image damage to the country among the comity of nations in the global system.
By Dr. Nwankwo A. Obidigbo