A prosecution witness, Adoke Usman, has given insight into how a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Innocent Azubuike Umezuluike, misled the National Judicial Council (NJC), into believing that he did not benefit directly from the N10 million donation made by businessman Arthur Eze (who at the time was a plaintiff before his court) through his company, Oranto Petroleum Ltd, at the launch of his book, “ABC of Contemporary Land Law in Nigeria”.
Mr. Umezuluike, who was arraigned on July 14, 2017 by the EFCC, is facing a one-count charge of fraud.
He is accused of abusing his “position to confer unfair advantage upon yourself by inviting one Prince Arthur Eze, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Oranto Petroleum Ltd who was a litigant in pending and concluded civil matters to wit: Suit No. E/388/2010; Prince Arthur Eze versus Diamond Bank and E147/2012, Prince Arthur Eze versus Major Concept Ltd respectively to the launch”.
Mr. Usman, who was led in evidence by prosecution counsel, Wahab Shittu, told Justice A.O. Onovo of an Enugu State High Court that Mr. Umezuluike deliberately twisted the facts in order to portray himself as someone who was not influenced by the donation.
“Our investigation in this case revealed that the defendant made false representation before the NJC panel set up to investigate allegations against him as regards the donation of N10 million by Prince Arthur Eze,” Mr. Usman said.
The EFCC investigator further explained that the statement the former judge made before the NJC was that he never received the said sum from Arthur Eze.
According to him, in the course of investigations, operatives recovered
deposit slip used to transfer the donation, statement of account and statement from the donor, Prince Arthur Eze himself acknowledging the payment of N10 million to the defendant through his company’s Fidelity Bank account.
He said: “Analysis of the documents all contradicted Umezuluike’s denial that he did not receive any money personally.
“After the donation was made by Arthur Eze, two cases involving him continued being heard by the defendant who was discovered to have used some proceeds amounting to about N15 million from the donation to acquire a federal government treasury bond.”
Mr. Usman explained further that the action was also a breach of agreement with the publisher, SNAAP Press Ltd who was to “oversee the publishing, public presentation, control and management of the sale of the book”.
Under cross-examination, Mr. Usman denied the allegation by defence counsel, Agu G. Agu that he carted away documents purportedly indicting the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu and the petitioner Peter Eze, a lawyer from the house of the defendant.
Mr. Usman also denied Mr. Agu’s allegation that Mr. Umezuluike was held by him for several hours, because he had intended to poison him.
Mr. Shittu also countered the allegation and sought the protection of the court for the witness, saying it was an attempt to malign and intimidate his witness.
Samuel Achuka, the general manager of SNAAP Press Nigeria Ltd, publishers of the book, who also testified, told the court that neither Arthur Eze nor his company, Oranto Petroleum, paid any money to SNAAP Press.
“The terms of agreement between the author and the publisher were not followed as a committee whose members we did not know was set up and all the printed books sold out at the public presentation, so we could not pay royalties which was agreed to be on N300 and N500 basis for soft and hard copies respectively,” he said.
The case has been adjourned to January 17 and 18, 2018 for continuation of trial, a statement by Wilson Uwujaren, EFCC’s head of media and publicity said.