The controversy surrounding Justice Mary Ukaego Odili’s alleged misconduct of sitting as a judge in her own case in a criminal appeal has become messier. The case was brought before the Supreme Court in 2013 by radical lawyer and human rights activist, Timipa Jenkins Okponipere. It was reported in the Nigerian Weekly Law Report (NWLR) as Timipa Okponipere VS. The State (2013) 10 NWLR (1362).
In the suit (NO:FHC/ABJ/CS/273/13 ) , filed at the Federal High Court in Abuja, Okponipere is demanding among others, an order compelling the National Judicial Council (NJC) to recommend to President Muhammadu Buhari the immediate and compulsory retirement of Justice Odili on account of judicial misconduct.
SaharaReporters investigations revealed that Justice Odili is fighting back by surreptitiously enlisting the support of the national leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the outgoing Inspector- General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase; and Chief Magistrate
Usman Shuaibu of the Chief Magistrate Court, Wuse Zone 2 in Abuja. In the plot designed by Justice Odili, the NBA, Arase and Usman were lined up to give false information to the Federal High Court about Okponipere ‘s status as a lawyer.
The plot kicked off with the NBA General Secretary, Mazi Afam Osigwe, mandated to write a letter to the Registrar of Court No. 5 of the Federal High Court in Abuja, headed by Justice Anwuri Chikere, and informing theRegistrar that Okponipere’s name has been struck off the Roll of Legal Practitioners in Nigeria.
This is conceived to ensure that Okponipere is arrested and prosecuted whenever he appears before theFederal High Court to prosecute the suit through which he seeks Justice Odili’s removal from the Supreme Court. He was arrested and has remained in custody at Kuje Prisons for three months.
But as Justice Odili’s scheme to derobe Okponipere without due process was running, Osigwe, the NBA General Secretary she hired, also hatched a plot to extort the sum of N5m from Okponipere.
According to Okponipere , he was contacted in February by Osigwe who demanded the sum of N5m. Osigwe, claimed Okponipere, said Justice Peter-Odili was mounting intense pressure on the NBA to revoke his status as a lawyer and that he needed the money to bribe NBA President, Augustine Alegeh SAN; the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Ahmed Gambo Saleh and Mr. J.B. Daudu( SAN), Chairman of the LPDC.
“When I refused to succumb to the illicit demand, he promptly wrote and signed a letter titled: ‘Unlawful Practice of Law By Timipa Jenkins Okponipere,’ which he sent to the Federal High Court No. 5 in Abuja. On February 24, 2016.
“I was arrested at the Court premises and remanded at Kuje Prison in Abuja on the order of Chief Magistrate Usman Shuaibu, who arraigned me in his office at about 3 pm casually dressed in a Jumper and cap,” alleged Okponipere.
Investigations have, however, revealed that Okponipere. Is eligible to practice as a lawyer. In a letter dated 9 July 2015 (Ref. NO: SCN/LIT/T/10160), the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Ahmed Gambo Saleh, while confirming that Okponipere was duly called to the Nigerian Bar said: “To the best of my knowledge, there has been no proceeding of bankruptcy against him, neither has there been any proceeding against him for professional or other misconduct. His name is still on the Roll of Legal Practitioners, and he is entitled to practice as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria.”
Okponipere is worried by the silence of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, the NJC and the Government of Rivers State the conduct of Justice Peter-Odili. Okponipere, who has spent three months in custody at Kuje Prisons, has urged Chief Magistrate Shuaibu to release him or risk a petition to the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory Judiciary.