Chief Justice of the Federation (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed

A lawyer, Leo Ekpenyong, has petitioned the National Judicial Council, NJC, over an ex-parte order issued to former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, by Valentine Ashi of the Abuja High Court 29.

In a letter addressed to the NJC chairman and Chief Justice of the Federation, Mahmud Mohammed, the Abuja-based lawyer accused Mr. Ashi of gross abuse of the judicial power of issuing the ex-parte order.

He argued that the issue, on which Mr. Ashi granted an ex-parte injunction to Mr. Akpabio, had no trapping of urgency or irreparable damage, which he said were the judicial bases for such an order.

Mr. Ashi had granted an injunction restraining Mr. Ekpenyong from publishing or causing to be published, any defamatory statement against Mr. Akpabio.

The judge issued the order following an application by counsel to the former governor and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Rickey Tarfa.

Mr. Tarfa had argued that Mr. Akpabio’s reputation had been tarnished following series of defamatory statements by Mr. Ekpenyong, and unless restrained, he would continue to publish such statements which have portrayed his client in bad light.

The legal practitioner also sought damages for libel in the sum of N1billion and an order compelling Mr. Ekpenyong and others to publish a full apology to Mr. Akpabio on the internet and two major national newspapers.
But in his petition to the NJC, Mr. Ekpenyong, complained that Mr. Ashi’s action was not only an act of “judicial rascality” and “lawlessness” but a grand design to occasion a miscarriage of justice.

“In a matter of which I am the defendant before Justice Valentine Ashi of the FCT High Court, there has been a gross abuse of judicial powers as the issuance of restraining order brought ex-parte, does not disclose any urgency whatsoever, most especially as same was issued during vacation.

“It must be noted at this juncture that the action of Hon. Justice Ashi is not just an act of judicial rascality and lawlessness but a grand design to occasion miscarriage of justice,” Mr. Ekpenyong stated.
While affirming that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man, Mr. Ekpenyong said he doubted whether he would get justice in Mr. Ashi’s court.

He argued that an interim injunction can only be issued in a situation of grave urgency and is designed to protect the rights of parties before the court, from destruction.
According to him, the Court of Appeal has held that the basis for granting an ex-parte order of injunction was the existence of special circumstances.

“What is contemplated by law is, therefore, urgency between the happening of the event which is sought to be restrained by the injunction and the date the application could be heard if taken after due notice to the other side.

“An emergency will normally arise if the other party cannot be easily reached before an irreparable damage is done,” said Mr. Ekpenyong.

He maintained that a venal judge was a threat to the sanctity of the judiciary and a calamity to the society.
As part of his prayers, Mr. Ekpenyong urged that Mr. Ashi should explain why disciplinary measures should not be taken against him for exercising an unjust judicial powers and favouritism to the plaintiff.

The lawyer further urged the judge to disqualify himself from adjudicating on the matter in dispute as he does not believe justice would be done without fear or favour.
He therefore urged the NJC to beam its searchlight on the activities of judge.

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