Justice Augusta Kingsley-Chuku of the High Court of Rivers State is enmeshed in allegations of gross judicial recklessness, misconduct, bias, and abuse of court process.
The people of Chokota Community in Igbo-Etche, Etche Local Government Area of the state wrote a petition against the judge, asking her to recuse herself from the case between Chief Udofia Obasiobong, an allegedly dubious land speculator, with his company, Livingstone Estate Limited and the people of the community because of her bias against the communities.
Also, the leadership of Umuotube, Umugodo and Umuona communities in Igbo-Etche, Etche Local Government Area of the state said sometime in 2018, Udofia (claimant) raided their “communal land with some armed thugs, soldiers and armed policemen without our authorisation, approval or consent”.
They said a committee was set up to look into the issues but that when the members of the committee went to the disputed land to investigate the cause of the of the trouble, “most of them came back terribly wounded and brutalized at the specific instruction of Udofia.
“That we had no other option but to proceed to court against Udofia and Livingstone Estate Limited in suit No ECC/55/2019, suit no ECC/65/2019 and suit no ECC/70/2019.”
They further alleged that the court restrained Udofia and company from doing anything on the land but that the court orders did not stop him from claiming to the disputed land.
An affidavit sworn to by the petitioners and made available to SaharaReporters, said, “That despite the court orders against the claimant on 6th September, 2019, the said claimant mobilised and fully paid one Teslin Agbabuo, a task force man who invaded our communities yet again and destroyed countless properties but was quickly countered by the intervention of some policemen on patrol.
“Not done with his disdain and disrespect for court orders, on September 11, 2019, Udofia engaged the services of policemen from Zone 6 who came to the community, shooting indiscriminately and arresting several members of the community, but upon presentation of court orders, the Zone 6 police granted bail to our people and advised him to go back to the court.”
They said in October 2019, Udofia stormed their communities with hundreds of armed policemen from Abuja, who arrested some residents. However, they added that “the IG ordered that those arrested should be released on hearing about the case”.
They said it was after much harassment suffered by members of the communities in the hands of Udofia and his paid thugs and security agents that the people proceeded to file a suit before a Rivers State Customary Court and Udofia and his Livingstone Estate were duly represented by his lawyers.
According to them, Udofia, rather than appeal the judgment to the Customary Court of Appeal, as the law prescribed, decided to embark on doing everything possible to truncate the process.
They alleged that eventually, he found a willing tool in the person of Justice Augusta Kingsley-Chuku.
Udofia has boasted several times that he fully paid for and will definitely procure judgment quickly, they also alleged.
Also, the judge’s husband, Kingsley Chuku, was also accused of being the actual holder of Udofia’s brief, using his wife’s court.
SaharaReporters however learnt that the husband is very close to the state governor, Nyesom Wike, and some of the powers that be in the country.
They alleged that he manipulated the system to ensure that Udofia’s case was assigned to his wife because of his interest in the case.
It was further learnt that the All Progressives Congress had in the past written a petition against Justice Kingsley-Chuku over alleged malfeasance in the judiciary but no action has been taken against her despite the official complaints against her.
“He (Udofia) further boasted that he had promised Kingsley Chuku and the wife 50 plots of land, that’s why he’ll soon obtain judgment from Augusta Kingsley-Chuku’s court,” one of the members of the affected communities, said.
Listing some of the things they consider as Justice Augusta Kingsley-Chuku’s sins, one of the elders of the affected communities said, “She is always obviously acting as the lead counsel for Udofia. She has harassed and intimidated two of the lawyers representing the community before her court, and the third and latest lawyer is not an exception.
“For a case that she started to hear mid last year, Justice Kingsley-Chuku has swiftly, but unlawfully adjourned for final address without regards to pending appeals at the Court of Appeal, challenging her jurisdiction to continue, final judgment of court of competent jurisdiction on the same subject matter and same parties, and pending applications and petitions by the communities, for her to recuse herself and withdraw from the matter due to her manifest bias and impartiality.”
There are also allegations that she denied the new community lawyers access to the court’s records, despite due payment made for it thereby denying them of fair hearing.
“She gave just 7 days adjournment for final address, immediately after she foreclosed the community from putting up any defence, despite the fact that the law provided for a total of 42 days statutorily,” the source said.
“She’s sitting as if she’s Supreme Court over a case now properly before the Court of Appeal. She openly denied ever seeing the pending applications/petitions against her in the court’s files. This is despite the fact that all applications were electronically wired and transmitted.
“In short, she’s the worst judge in Rivers because she combines her manifestly biased interests with gross ignorance of basic provisions of the law. There’s absolutely no pretence in her, that she’s doing the matter for herself and family’s interests, while sitting as a judge.”
The communities have therefore appealed to the National Judicial Council, Rivers State government, and other relevant authorities to caution Justice Augusta Kingsley-Chuku, saying doing that will save the good image of the judiciary.