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A’Ibom Chief Judge declines application to transfer case file from Justice Ntong

Dec 14, 2017
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A’Ibom Chief Judge declines application to transfer case file from Justice Ntong

…Orders accelerated hearing of petition

The Akwa Ibom State Chief Judge, CJ, has declined an application by Mr Victor Udom to transfer a case before Hon Justice Ntong following allegations of bias levelled against the judge.

In a petition dated November 13, 2017, titled; “A case of bias against Hon Justice Ntong Ntong of Akwa Ibom State High Court No 2 in Ikot Ekpene Judicial Division, Re” Application for the transfer of Charge No: HT/34C/2017- The State vs Philip Sunday Ben, and addressed to the CJ, the applicant, Mr Victor Udom lamented that more than three months after he submitted his petition against Hon Justice Ntong, the CJ has curiously not acted on it.

The letter reads in parts; “Recall that on 8th August, 2017 application above was submitted to your office and duky acknowledged. The application became necessary given the sensitivity and security considerations as our lives continue to be under threat due to past and present actions of the accused persons and their Akwa Marine Cult members, some of which are still parading and marauding freely in the streets with no hope of immediate apprehension by security agents.

” My Lord, it is indeed very disheartening that after three (3) months since the application was received, there is yet to be any directive or feedback of any form, be it positive or negative from My Lord regarding the request”.

“My Lord, while awaiting the said directive or otherwise, we decided to engage the service of a third party to watch the proceedings in court to access the terrain and ascertain the possibility of our appearance in the event the much desired transfer directive is delayed or denied. My Lord, the feedback from the court in the last proceedings is not only hostile and disturbing but poses a great concern on judicial integrity”.

My Lord, it is worthy to note that the Presiding Judge, His Lordship Hon. Justice Ntong Ntong made many troubling comments in the open court with absolutely no consideration to judicial ethics on the 24th day of October, 2017 when this matter came up for hearing and it was brought to the notice of the Court by the State Counsel the existence of a letter requesting for the transfer of the case to any court outside the strong hold of the accused person’s gang – an application hinged on the security of the witnesses”.

Continuing, the petitioner said, ” Some of the disturbing comments made in open Court by His Lordship, Hon Justice Ntong Ntong are as follows:

1. That he once searched information on the internet only to find out that he (Hon Justice Ntong Ntong) alongside Senator Godswill Akpabio and the Attorney General and Hon. Commissioner for Justice, Barr Uwemedimo Nwoko were according to him all linked in the media to the activities of cult operations of the accused persons before his court.

2. He openly stated that the complainant who is now seeking for transfer of the case did not envisage that the matter will finally come before his court for determination.

My Lord by these comments, the Hon Judge by implication, actually confirmed his interest as alleged by his said internet search, which in my opinion is sufficient bias to influence his decision in the matter. One would have thought that the prevailing circumstance will pte-empt the Hon Judge to voluntarily decline jurisdiction or competency on the matter rather than indicate further interest in same.

3. My Lord, additionally, the Presiding Judge further insisted and compelled the State Prosecuting Counsel to read and repeat aloud my residential address as contained in the application after which he drew the attention of the court where a sizeable members of the gang were present to same while stating that I have no place to hide as my residential address is now in the public domain.

4. My Lord the Presiding Judge also advised the State Prosecuting Counsel not to waste her time awaiting the transfer of the said suit from his court as it will never be granted. He announced that this agreement was reached during the phone conversation he had with you over the matter some weeks ago when you called him to seek his opinion. He further warned that rather than waste further time, the State Counsel should prepare for accelerated hearing in the matter and portrayed the tendency to strike out the matter for failure of witnesses to appear in Court.

The consequences of these comments by His Lordship Justice Ntong Ntong are as follows:

1. It portends a misleading signal to the camp of the accused persons who already are jubilating the anticipated speedy release of their leader and other members in custody. This was evident in the increased number of gang members who turned out on Friday, 10th November in anticipation of next bail application hearing filed by the defense counsel for Emmanuel Ben.

Although the matter did not come up, the environment was noticeably tensed due to the intimidating presence of a teaming number of dreaded gang members within and outside the court premises. My Lord I am informed that the State Prosecutor could not leave the court until many hours for fear of attack by the gang members. We are worried that this may impose fear capable of negatively impacting effective prosecution of this case in that location or environment.

2. Again, this has thrown the entire community into a state of restiveness as the rumoured hope of release raised so much fear of renewed acts of terror which has been the practice of the leader and his gang members.

3. It has further escalated the risk exposure levels on prospective witnesses in this matter comprising of community elders, village heads, women and youth who want their land to be free from these age-long cult menace and thereby further grossly jeopardise the possibility of safe appearance in any court within the stronghold of the gang during proceedings.

4. The intentional public announcement and attention of the court emphatically drawn to my residence address by His Lordship Justice Ntong Ntong in an application which was not addressed to the court where the accused members were present has further enhanced and facilitated a renewed manhunt on me with unwaivering vigor and has further subjected me and my entire family to an avoidable security risk exposure especially as a sizeable number of the members are still marauding the street freely.

The petition which was copied to the State Prosecution Counsel, the National Judicial Council, NJC, and the Federal Ministry of Justice is yet to be acted upon by the CJ.

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