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CSO Accuse Justice Ikpambese of Graft

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… urges NJC to investigate, prosecute him

A socio-political group, Benue Diaspora Vanguard (US Chapter) has raised an alarm over the series of documented judicial gaffes and atrocities committed by the current Chief Judge of Benue State, Justice Maurice Ikpambese Ichol.

The group accused the Chief Judge of involvement in grand corruption schemes, favouritism, nepotism, clannishness and other deliberate crimes in direct contravention of his oath of office and the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria with the intent to enrich himself.

In a petition addressed to the Chairman of National Judicial Council and signed by the Convener of Benue Diaspora Vanguard (US Chapter), Comrade Itodo Isaac, a copy of which was sighted by our correspondent,
the group decried the desecration of the temple of justice in Benue State, submitting that Justice Ikpambese is unfit to continue presiding as the Chief Judge of Benue State and should, therefore, be sacked.

Excerpts, “all over the world, lawyers and indeed the law profession is seen as a calling reserved only for noble men with impeccable character. Unfortunately, there exists amongst the ranks of lawyers and evening justices a breed of corrupt, nepotistic and inept lawyers. The current Chief Judge of Benue State, Justice Maurice Ichol Ikpambese personifies this category of lawyers. It is not clear if Justice Ikpambese took the oath of office to uphold his personal interest as against the constitution of Nigeria but one thing is clear, Justice Ikpambese has demonstrated clearly through his malfeasance and gross violation of the constitution that he is unfit to be the Chief Judge of Benue State.

“The desecration and judicial sacrilege committed in judicial temples across Benue State orchestrated by so-called Chief Judge is appalling.
Justice Ikpambese has jettisoned his oath office in pursuit of material wealth by manipulating the judiciary in favour of his paymasters, thereby, shamelessly enriching himself with billions of ill-gotten wealth. We therefore demand his immediate sack, followed by an investigation and prosecution for obvious infractions and violation of judicial norms and statutes”.

The group also accused Justice Ikpambese of destroying the independence of the judiciary in Benue State with his unholy alliances with politically exposed persons coupled with the level of dubious judgements that has turned Benue State into a Judicial black market for the highest bidders, a situation they described as an eyesore.

According to the petition, “whereas the judiciary is supposed to be independent and the last hope of the common man, Justice Ikpambese has not only aligned himself with the powers that be, but has made justice in Benue a commodity that can be bought by the highest bidders. This is an eyesore and something must be done to checkmate the excesses of this judicial rogue to avert the eminent reign of judicial hooliganism Benue State”.

On nepotism charges, the group revealed that “the Chief Judge has been secretly assigning his kinsmen and close allies who are lawyers to political cases with high stakes with strict instructions to play to the gallery. Any lawyer or judicial staff opposed to his schemes is severely punished. The recent suspicious transfer of the Registrar of Aliade High Court Division after withdrawing the case file of a politically controversial case in Suit No: ALHC/04/2024 from Aliade High Court, presided over by the Honourable Justice Lilian N. Tsumba and assigning same to self is a good example.

“Documents available to us show that, the Chief Judge has received a whooping sum of Two Hundred Million Naira (₦200,000,000.00) in bribes in a matter involving the SGF, Senator George Akume. The sudden withrawal of schedules of the Registrar in Aliade and the vow by the CJ to set aside the Exparte Order made pending the determination of the Motion on Notice in the suit at Aliade validates our claim and suspicions. Justice Ikpambese must therefore recuse himself from the suit involving the ruling All Progressive Congress for obvious conflict of interest and the possibility of doing the bidding of his paymaster”

“We are not lost on how this Judicial Officer sits on matters in which interest should ordinarily excuse his participation. A case in point is the one Late Pine’s case in which he had his office secretary to take the said Pine on bail and after his conviction. My lord sat on appeal over the matter and set the conviction aside. Late Pine at the time was testifying for him as a witness at the NJC.

“Again, most judgements are often passed without any recourse to judicial precedents and legal traditions.
This open miscarriage of justice has become a norm in Benue State and must be investigated by the NJC. In fact, without mincing words, it is clear that our Chief Judge is politically exposed and not fit to be an unbiased judge in the affairs of Benue people. His continued stay in office is therefore, not healthy for our dear state and if nothing is done to stop this broad daylight legal robberies, there is a possiblity that Benue become a lawless state with zero confidence in the judiciary.

“The Chief Judge has also been fingered in another coordinated fraud of interfering with civil service procedures and influencing the posting of in-laws and close relations to sensitive positions in the judiciary to serve as conduits for fleecing public funds. A good example is the appointment of his in-law as the Administrator of the Estate of Late Chief Dabo Adzuana to replace him when he became Chief Judge, to serve as a link-man for him to the estate through which he dealt inconsistently with, resulting into several petitions against him and his in-law who was eventually removed. That in-law has now been appointed to be in-charge of the Bailiff section while his wife is the Registrar of Litigation at the State High Court. One can only imagine the magnitude of damage that was done to the estates of deceased persons in the state by the Chief Judge and his minion”.

“In fact, several such grand corruption schemes are currently ongoing in the Finance Department Probate registry and other juicy department in the judiciary. This violates not just his oath of office but his calling as a lawyer and a flagrant abuse of the powers of his office. If concerted efforts are not made to sack and prosecute Mr. Ikpambese, the judiciary in Benue will cast a long dark shadow on the entire judicial system in Nigeria”. Facts have emerged that all contracts in the judiciary are done by the chief judge or his children and cronies in violation of the public procurement and code of conduct Acts.

The socio-political group also challenged the Chief Judge to come clean in the draconian role he played in management and sale of a property belonging to the estate of Chief Adzuana Dabo to Samuel Ortom, the immediate past Governor of Benue State, the owner of Oracle conglomerates, despite several petitions before and after the illegal sale.

“The most draconian of all the litany of judicial infractions and corruption cases against the embattled Chief Judge is the unethical interference in the estate of Chief Adzuana Dabo. His role in the management and sale of the property located at Oturkpo Road, in Makurdi, to Oracle conglomerates, despite numerous petitions confirms our worst fears that the Chief Judge is criminally in bed with some persons in gross violation of the oath of his office.

“While we demand that the Chief Judge be made to account for his role in the shady transaction which he superintended on behalf of his master who smuggled him into power even when it was clear he lacked the credentials and pedigree, we equally call on the National Judicial Council (NJC) to compel Mr. Ikpambese to explain what happened to the petition submitted by the family of the elder statesman and that of Wuese Jov, challenging the illegal involvement, handling and unilateral sale of their patriarch’s property property to a paltry sum of ₦150,000.000.00.

“The case of KAWA CONSTRUCTION COY & 1 OR. VS. BARR. AKOR YAAYA SUIT NO: MHC/449/2012 is instructive. The 2nd Plaintiff in the suit Emmanual Wuese Ode was also dissatisfied with the sale of the late elder statesman’s property is already in Court to challenge the illegality, same as the other family members of the late Daboh Adzuana. We recall how this Judicial Officer brought in thugs to beat up the 2nd Plaintiff and also molested his lawyer at the sight of Dabo plaza.

“One wonders why My lord will insist to still sit over the matter of the Estate of the deceased Daboh when he was the Administrator and never made proper accounts to the deceased family where he even ran into issues with their Lawyers. Curiously, by the mutual terms of settlement dated 4th October, 2023 and filed on the 3rd of November, 2023 before the CJ in a matter he was clearly interested, he gave judgment on the 9th
day of October, 2023.
A man as inept and corrupt like Ikpambese does not belong in our hallowed judicial chambers. He should be sacked and prosecuted immediately”, the petition added.

The group equally called on the NJC to investigate the case of Benue State Board of Internal Revenue (BIRS) vs Mobile Telecommunications Nigeria Limited (MTN) where records have shown that, “the current Chief judge abused his office by awarding damages that were in excess of the entire judgement sum sought in the suit. This he clandestinely did in collaboration with some BIRS staff with the intent of collecting the excess cash as kickback. This is corruption and a gross violation of our constitution, deserving of incarceration in a maximum security prison”.

Accusing the Chief Judge of also being in breach of the Financial Regulations Act, the group revealed that, “the Chief Judge has presided over the illegal authorization of suspicious payments to his private accounts and that of his cronies in the judiciary. Accordingly, his personal bank accounts must be investigated by relevant authorities to ascertain our claims”.

Exposing the sordid cases of primitive enrichment against the Chief Judge, the New Benue Diaspora Vanguard dared him to come clean regarding his source of wealth by making public his Code of Code form to prove his innocence, adding that his failure to respond to requests about his asset shows that he’s guilty of bribe taking and primitive enrichment.

“It is on record that Justice Ikpambese has refused to disclose his assets as stipulated by the law. He is accordingly liable for prosecution by the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). It is worth mentioning that Justice Ikpambese has ignored all legitimate requests for him to provide his CCB forms as required under the Freedom of information Act (FOI) as amended. With several commercial properties in Makurdi and Abuja running into billions of naira, the Chief Judge has to come clean on the source of wealth which is above the legitimate earnings of a State Chief Judge”, the statement added.

While giving the NJC a 2-week ultimatum to act on their petition or face a protest by all Benue sons and daughters at the National Headquarters of the National Judicial Council, the group urged the NJC “to review the last 15 judgements issued by the current Chief Judge of Benue State to expose the corrupt practices of Justice Ikpambese and the authenticity the veracity of their allegations and claims”.

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