FOLLOWING a petition by the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA) alleging misconduct against Justice Ufot Inyang, the National Judicial Council (NJC) has begun an investigation on the jurist.
Justice Inyang had ordered FERMA to pay N460 million to one of its contractors, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of BPS Engineering and Construction Company Limited, Prince Chudi Charles Chukwuani, while adjudicating in a dispute relating to a certain N27 million being unpaid sum of the contract.
However, FERMA said it suspected foul play as it was illogical for a court to award such amount to a party over a contract dispute worth so less. Already, the Federal Judicial Service Commission (FJSC) has suspended the Chief Registrar of FCT High Court, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Musa Yahaya, for her role in the matter.
Sources within the NJC told The Guardian that Inyang has been served three successive queries on the matter and he has responded to each accordingly, adding that the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and Chairman of NJC, Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar, remain resolute in her effort at cleansing the stable of corruption and would eliminate corrupt judges from the bench.
“The FERMA petition is viewed seriously by the NJC,” the source said. “On the face of it, there are prima facie questions that naturally arise that his lordship, Justice U. Inyang, has to answer.”
Though no decision has been reached on whether or not the judge is guilty of misconduct, the source noted, the facts contained in the case raise serious concern as to how he arrived at the judgment sum. In his decision of Friday, December 20, 2011, he ordered FERMA to pay N50 million in damages at interest of 25 per cent running from 2006, amounting to N460 million.
The source noted that Inyang’s verdict is one of such cases the NJC would not be amused about, as it seems absurd and illogical to award such huge damages for such dispute.
A source at FERMA, who pleaded anonymity, also said the agency was shocked at the speed with which the court order was signed by the judge, enrolled and executed, making the order even more suspicious, as it was done in disregard of an interlocutory order issued by the Court of Appeal, filed the same day Inyang’s decision was made.
Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal, Abuja, had on June 4, 2013 indicted Prince Chukwuani and the Chief Registrar of FCT High Court, Mrs. Yahaya, for releasing to Chukwuani against court orders, the N460 million judgment sum kept in her custody despite two subsisting interlocutory orders – by the Appeal Court and the FCT High Court.
Granting FERMA’s application, Justice Abubakar Datti Yahaya said, “it was unbecoming of a judicial officer of the rank of Chief Registrar of a High Court to ignore an order of court.”
Yahaya declared her action as an affront on the judicial system and the rule of law and ordered Chukwuani and Mrs. Yahaya to pay the N460 million into an interest-yielding account in the control of the Chief Registrar Court of Appeal within 30 days of the ruling. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) – a party in the appeal – expressed satisfaction with the ruling.