Nigerian Jurist and former Chief Judge of Enugu state, Innocent Azubike Umezulike, passed away at a private hospital in London, the United Kingdom, on Tuesday 26 June 2018. The Professor of Property Law, who was awarded Order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (OFR) served as the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Nigeria for 13 years making, him the longest serving Chief Judge South-East Nigeria and second longest serving Chief Judge in Nigeria. His burial has been announced to take place on Friday, September 28th, 2018, at his home in Mgbidi, Awgu Local Government, Enugu State, Nigeria.
Born on September 21, 1953, at Rivers State Nigeria Innocent Umezulike attended St. Vincent Secondary School where he obtained the West Africa School Certificate in 1971. He then proceeded to the University of Lagos where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Law in 1976, the same year he joined services of the Nigerian Television Authority and appointed Assistant Legal Adviser to the corporation. He joined the services of the University of Ibadan in 1983, as academic staff (Grade II) in the Faculty of Law before joining Nnamdi Azikiwe University where he became an Associate Professor in 1992. On August 1993, he was appointed a Judge of Enugu State and then Chief Judge of Enugu State and after four years of service, he was nominated by the Federal Government of Nigeria to serve in the Supreme Court of Gambia.
However, the late Justice hit a snag in his career when a political war began between him and Nigerian Senator Ike Ekweremadu. Over the course of 2 years, he was later arraigned before a high court in Enugu in 2017 over a N10million donation allegedly made during his book launch while in office in 2014, A revelation that was brought forth by Ekweremadu. Umezulike was accused of using his position as a Chief Judge to confer an unfair advantage upon himself by inviting Prince Arthur Eze, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Oranto Petroleum Ltd, a litigant in a civil matter against Diamond Bank Plc, to his book launch. The former Chief Judge was alleged to have accepted and paid the money into his account sometime in February 2014. He was also exposed by detectives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who traced over N632.2 million acquired through numerous bribes to his account. The National Judicial Commission (NJC) also recommended that the governor of Enugu state, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, should compulsorily retire Justice Umezulike over several cases of malfeasance. The controversies over Late Justice Umezulike’s actions are all factors which led to his demise. Official reports have not yet been revealed as to the cause of his death.
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