Justice Joseph Itsebaga Acha of Benin High Court has reacted to condemnations over his verdict in the divorce suit involving Chief Leemon Ikpea and his wife, Agnes.
Ikpea, a 64-year-old billionaire, is the Chairman of Lee Engineering Group of Companies.
The judge was heavily criticised in the media over his February 17 ruling.
Acha alleged that his pronouncements on two motions filed in the matter were “skewed” to cast him in a negative light.
NAN reports that at the resumed hearing on Wednesday, Acha said the respondent (Agnes) had petitioned the Edo Chief Judge to reassign the suit.
Acha declared he stood by his ruling, adding that it was to protect the lives of all the parties involved.
“It is correct that this matter was fixed for hearing today and today, two motions were filed on behalf of the respondent and the last was given to me this morning.
“More importantly, after the last sitting of this court, a petition was written on behalf of the respondent to the Chief Judge, seeking reassignment of this case to another court.
“The petition was referred to me for my reaction, I responded and I am awaiting the directive of the Chief Judge on the next step.
“I want to repeat that in my ruling of February 17, the need to protect and safeguard the lives of the parties remains my primary concern more than anything else,” Acha said.
The judge had restrained Agnes and her proxies from interfering with the petitioner’s agents and business.
He directed the respondent to vacate the Banana Island residence, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
Acha said Agnes could alternatively move into the petitioner’s GRA Benin residence temporarily until the suit was determined.
He made reference to an application by the respondent urging the court to transfer the petition for dissolution of marriage to Lagos State judiciary for determination.
The judge said having considered arguments for and against the application, he found no merit in the request.
Acha ordered the petitioner to deposit a N5million bank guarantee with the court to cater for the respondent’s expenses throughout the duration of the suit.
Acha, the second most senior Judge in the Edo State High Court hierarchy, faces an allegation of bias.
The Justice Acha, said to be in the Criminal Division of Court, was accused of sitting “deliberately” on a divorce case.
Ikpea’s decision to institute the case in Benin, although Agnes resides in Lagos, raised eyebrows.
The petitioner and the judge were linked to “their common Ishan heritage and Catholic Church membership”.
Critics accused Acha of ordering Agnes to vacate her matrimonial home while the case is still in court.
Reports say the next day after the ruling (February 18), thugs threw the wife out of the home without any of her belongings.
It was gathered that Ikpea, a Catholic, married Agnes under native law and custom nearly four decades ago.
Around 20 years ago, they renewed vows at the St. Leo’s Catholic Church, Toyin Street in Ikeja. The couple have six children.
Ipkea reportedly married Tina Ochuko in 2002 under native law and custom. She also lives in the magnate’s Banana Island mansion