Below is the petition that prompted the suspension of Justice Theresa Uzokwe as Abia Chief Judge by the state House of Assembly:
22nd January, 2018
The Rt. Hon. Speaker,
Abia State House of Assembly,
JUSTICE THERESA UZOKWE’S UNENDING ACTS OF TYRANNY, INFAMY, GROSS MISCONDUCT AND INCOMPETENCE: URGENT NEED TO SAVE THE ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE IN ABIA STATE
We are constrained by the obvious acts of gross misconduct, ineptitude, and non adherence to established guidelines and principles in the administration of the Judiciary since the emergence of Justice Theresa Uzoamaka Uzokwe as Chief Judge Abia State, which acts has adversely affected Justice Administration in the State, to forward this Petition to you. This Petition is made for ourselves and on behalf of the Global Centre for Peace and Justice.
Presently the Judiciary in Abia State has almost grinded to a halt occasioned by the tyrannical and reckless acts of the Chief Judge, which acts have brought this important arm of Government to disrepute, ridicule and public odium.
We will in the preceding paragraphs of this Petition catalogue some of the very despicable, disgraceful and condemnable acts committed by Justice Uzokwe within the last Two (2) years of her administration.
Since the creation of Abia State till date, Abia has had Five (5) substantive heads of the Judiciary (Chief Judge), viz Justice F.I.E Ukata, Justice K.O Amah, Justice S.N. Imo, Justice Nnenna Otti and presently, Justice Uzokwe. It is equally apt to mention here that there was an interregnum where the Judiciary had an avalanche of acting Chief Judges, which saw the emergence of the following as acting Chief Judges – Justice Ijeoma Offonry, Justice Nnenna Otti, Justice Uzokwe, Justice S.O.E Nwanosike and Justice Stella Nwakanma.
Justice Theresa Uzokwe was appointed Chief Judge in December 2014, following the statutory retirement of Justice Nnenna Otti. The appointment of Justice Uzokwe was not without controversy, as there was unprecedented and sustained opposition from virtually all major stakeholders in the justice delivery sector in the State.
The Bar in the State, including senior members, was opposed to her appointment. Judiciary staff were equally not left out in expressing their disapproval over her appointment, including Judges who knew Justice Uzokwe from the old Imo State. Most of the people who were opposed to Justice Uzokwe’s appointment, cited her known erratic nature and various past acts of known misconduct.
The issue of her being a non – indigene of Abia State, in all ramifications (birth and marriage) was equally cited as a disqualifying factor. It was noted that no State, prior to Justice Uzokwe’s appointment as Chief Judge had acceded to a non – indigene heading an arm of Government of the State, apart from Borno State (during the military era) that requested the Chief Justice of Nigeria to provide a Chief Judge for the State, due to want of manpower for that office in their State. This request by Borno State led to the appointment of Justice Kalu Anya, who was thereafter sent packing under controversial circumstances.
Despite all the above opposition to Justice Uzokwe’s appointment, the then Governor of the State, Senator T.A Orji, in his largeness of heart and in his bid to drown criticisms emanating from the patriotic/retaliatory act of returning non – indigenous Civil Servants to their States of origin, proceeded to appoint Justice Uzokwe as the Chief Judge of the State.
Justice Uzokwe has since her appointment not only proved all those who opposed her appointment right in their opposition, but has also virtually rendered the Judiciary prostrate.
DENIGRATION OF THE OFFICE OF THE CHIEF JUDGE –
Justice Uzokwe has since her assumption of office, denigrated and reduced the exalted office of the Chief Judge of Abia State which she occupies to that of a street trader, by her various acts of gross misconduct especially in public places. It is common knowledge that Justice Uzokwe takes delight in verbal altercations with her fellow Judges, Judiciary staff, Government officials and other members of the public; an act common with street traders and unbefitting of the respectable office of a Judicial Officer nay Chief Judge.
It is also common knowledge in the State that nobody visits the office of Justice Uzokwe, including her fellow Judges except on appointment and that even if one is on appointment, Justice Uzokwe must clear the visitor’s entry into her Chambers personally. Most Judges from the Abia State Judiciary and those from outside our jurisdiction have suffered verbal harassment and abuse and even arrests for venturing to enter Justice Uzokwe’s office (a public office) without express permission from her. Justice Olubanjo of the Federal High Court was verbally assaulted and humiliated by Justice Uzokwe for venturing into her office to deliver a message. Justices Amaobi Agbara and Okey Nwamoh of the Abia State Customary Court of Appeal were verbally assaulted and ordered to leave her office, for getting in without express clearance from her. Justices C.O Onyeabor and C.U Okoroafor of the Abia State Judiciary also suffered the same fate. In the case of Justice Okoroafor, his attempt at resisting her walkout order resulted to an invitation by Justice Uzokwe to her police orderly to arrest Justice Okoroafor, and, a subsequent Petition against Justice Okoroafor at the instance of Justice Uzokwe to the Abia State Command of the Nigeria Police Force. Justice Okoroafor was subsequently invited to the Police Station where he was made to make a statement under caution and later released on bail.
It is not a hidden fact that Justice Uzokwe has twice verbally and physically assaulted the highly respected and amiable Chief Judge of Ebonyi State, Justice Alloy Nwankwo. Both assaults happened in public and have been reported by Justice Alloy Nwankwo to the Attorney General of Abia State, the immediate past and present Presidents of the Nigerian Bar Association and some other functionaries of the Abia State Government.
Justice Uzokwe in the last but one jail delivery exercise held at the Umuahia prison humiliated a fellow judge, Justice E.O Enwereji, in the presence of prison officials, fellow Judges, inmates of the Umuahia prison, State counsel from the Ministry of Justice and police officers, by ordering the Judge out of the venue of the jail delivery exercise.
Also,Justice Uzokwe at the Reception Area of Oxygen Hotel in Owerri and in the full glare of staff of the hotel, other guests and some Judges of the Abia State Judiciary shouted at and verbally assaulted our revered Justice C.C.T Adiele to the chagrin of everybody who was present.
Mention must also be made of Justice Uzokwe’s brawl at Reiz Continental hotel, Abuja with a telephone repairer – an act witnessed by the staff of the hotel, other guests in the hotel including two former Commissioners of Abia State, Engr. Emma Nwabuko and Chief Joseph Ogwo.
Justice Uzokwe equally was engaged in the disruption of banking activities at Diamond Bank, Eziukwu Road, Aba for failure of the bank to honour her Basic Traffic Allowance (BTA) request – an act that resulted in several phone calls to the police and Government officials to prevail on Justice Uzokwe to leave the bank’s premises.
The last to be mentioned here for want of time and space is a recent physical assault on the Chief Registrar of the High Court of Abia State, Mr. Benson Anya, by Justice Uzokwe at the premises of the Judiciary Headquarters, Umuahia.
The above mentioned acts amongst others not mentioned here for want of time and space have denigrated the office of the Chief Judge of our State, as the above conduct obviously should not be expected of a Judicial Officer, more so a Chief Judge.
ACTS OF LAWLESSNESS AND DISRESPECT TO STATE AUTHORITIES
The Governor of the State, Okezie Ikpeazu Ph.D, who for all purposes is the symbol of the State, has serially been disrespected by Justice Uzokwe. It went viral in 2016 and was reported by all major newspapers in the country, that Justice Uzokwe in a public gathering, specifically the 2016/2017 Legal Year Opening Ceremony, attended by the Deputy Governor of the State warned the Governor and dared to deal with him if he repeats whatever act she said the Governor did on the day preceding the event. Thisday Newspaper of October 26, 2016, with the caption ABIA EXECUTIVE, JUDICIARY ON COLLISION PATH AS CJ WARNS GOVERNOR reported where Justice Theresa Uzokwe publicly derided and disparaged the person and office of the Governor of Abia State when they quoted Justice Uzokwe as saying “…before I continue, let me use this opportunity to warn the Governor of the State not to do what he did yesterday again and if he does it again, I will publicly warn him”. No Governor in the history of Nigeria has been so disrespected and ridiculed by a Chief Judge, who remains the Governor’s appointee. Till date, and Two (2) years after that show of disrespect and public warning to Governor Ikpeazu, Justice Uzokwe has not found it appropriate to render an unreserved public apology to our revered Governor, who remains the symbol of our Statehood.
Justice Uzokwe sometime ago embarrassed Governor Ikpeazu at the Imo airport, Owerri, by preventing the Governor from entering his car, thereby momentarily restraining his movement – an action that drew the ire of the Governor’s security men and would have attracted some untoward reaction from the security men but for the prompt intervention of the Governor.
Sometime in 2017, both the Governor and Justice Uzokwe were in Abuja for different purposes and for certain urgent State matters, the Governor had to make an unplanned return to Umuahia on the same day with the Chief Judge. The Governor’s protocol at Abuja could only get few economy seats on that flight as all the business class seats had been booked and paid for. On enquiry by the Abia State Liaison Officer in Abuja, Mr. Agbiri, it turned out that the only business class seat paid for by somebody from Abia State was that of the Chief Judge, which was equally paid through Abia State funds. The Liaison Officer approached the Chief Judge to lend her business class seat to the Governor and take up the Governor’s economy seat for the Forty – Five (45) minutes journey to Owerri. The Chief Judge flared up and deprecated the Liaison Officer for suggesting such an idea to her whereupon the Liason Officer put a call to the Attorney – General of the State to intervene and persuade Justice Uzokwe to oblige her seat. Despite all pleas to Justice Uzokwe, she remained adamant and unyielding, insisting that she must occupy her business class, seat which she did.
In June 2015, Justice Uzokwe hijacked the powers of the Governor of the State, by dismissing the JSC Secretary (I.C. Nwachukwu) an appointee of the Governor and replaced him with her then preferred candidate, His Worship, Edith Claire Kalu. The Governor’s attempt at reasserting and reclaiming his Constitutional powers through his appointment of Mrs. Uche Ikonne, as substantive JSC secretary was successfully resisted and rebuffed by Justice Uzokwe who insisted on Edith Claire Kalu and later one L.U Okite, her preferred candidates. The State House of Assembly by Resolution No. 42 of 15thNovember, 2016, urged the Governor to reconstitute the State Judicial Service Commission, which proposal was implemented by the Governor resulting in the appointment Messrs Obinna Nkume, Obasi Awa, Goddy Ikpeama and Izima. These new appointees have since October 2016 assumed office, but Justice Uzokwe who is also an appointee of the Governor has refused to recognize them in flagrant disrespect to the office of the Governor, the State House of Assembly and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Not even an erudite and valid Court Judgment made by a Court of Competent Jurisdiction has persuaded Justice Uzokwe to depart from her perilous path of not recognizing the Governor’s appointed JSC members. Justice Uzokwe has continued to act in violation and contempt of the valid Court Judgment.
Justice Uzokwe in utter disrespect to the Governor and to the annoyance of all peace loving and law abiding Abia citizens, has continued to host her parallel Judicial Service Commission in her office, where these sacked members have been committing series of atrocities, including illegal appointments and discipline of staff.
It is the duty of the Accountant – General of the State to post Accounting Officers to all Ministries, Departments, Agencies and Arms of Government including the Judiciary and Legislature. Since 2016, the Judiciary (High Court) has operated without a Head of Accounts as a result of the rejection of one Mr. Uguru who was posted to the Judiciary (High Court) by the Accountant – General, to head the Accounts Division. The unlawful rejection of Mr. Uguru by Justice Uzokwe has paved way for her and the erstwhile Chief Registrar, Mrs. Akwiwu to run the accounts of the Judiciary at their whims and caprices, in utter violation of extant Financial Guidelines and Public Service Rules. This has occasioned unbridled corruption in the Judiciary and reckless misuse of public funds meant for the advancement of the Abia Judiciary and its staff.
Section 126 of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) provides for the appointment of Auditor – General of the State. The Auditor – General is an appointee of the Governor, subject to the confirmation of the House of Assembly of the State. The Auditor – General of the State has the power to conduct enquiry, audit or seek financial explanation from any Ministry, Department or Agency of Government or any arm of the State Government including the Judiciary and legislature, where Government’s appropriated funds are expended. Justice Uzokwe, as head of the Judiciary, has in her continued violation of extant laws and disrespect for State authorities refused to yield the Judiciary to financial scrutiny since her assumption of office. Attempts by staff of the Auditor – General’s office to audit the financial records of the Judiciary based on reported cases of financial malfeasance have been rebuffed by Justice Uzokwe. Severally, she has walked out staff of the Auditor – General’s office from her office with a threat to send them to jail if they dared come to her office again.
FINANCIAL MALFEASANCE AND EMBEZZLEMENT OF FUNDS OF THE JUDICIARY
Since Justice Uzokwe emergence as Chief Judge, she has surreptitiously gotten the State Government to increase the monthly allocation to the Judiciary (High Court) to Ten Million Naira (N 10, 000, 000). She has equally secured for herself a monthly security vote of Three Million (N 3, 000, 000), in addition to the monthly security vote of Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N 250,000) paid to every Judge in the State. This increment of both imprest and security vote has only been to the benefit of Justice Uzokwe and has in no way impacted positively on the fortunes of other Judiciary staff including fellow Judges. The Ten Million Naira (N 10, 000, 000) monthly overhead instead of being used to enhance infrastructure in the Judiciary and attend to the urgent needs of Judiciary staff including Judges and Magistrates is principally being used as pocket money by Justice Uzokwe.
A good chunk of this money is expended on frivolities and unnecessary trips and unhelpful conferences, both real and phantom. Most of these frivolous trips to Anambra, Abuja, Lagos and other places that may fancy Justice Uzokwe are made in the company of Personal Aides and Police Orderlies at great cost to the State.
There have been cases of falsification of financial records with claims of expenditure on Judges’ quarters, when there is no Judges’ quarters in existence. Documentary evidence abound of sums of money allegedly spent on procurement of food items and drinks for Judges. Documentary evidence abound of millions of Naira allegedly spent on fumigation, clearing and sanitization of Court rooms and Judges’ quarters. There is also documentary evidence of payment of One Million Two Hundred and Eighty Thousand Naira (N 1, 280,000), following Justice Uzokwe’s claim that there was an outstanding payment of One Million Two Hundred and Eighty Thousand Naira (N 1, 280,000) to Eight (8) Family Court Assessors as backlog of salaries at Eighty Thousand Naira (N 80,000) per Assessor, whereas each Assessor according to official Judiciary Account records shows that each Assessor is paid Twenty Thousand Naira (N 20, 000).
The issues mentioned in the preceding paragraph bordering on corrupt practices and financial malfeasance is now subject of an ongoing investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission (ICPC). Ordinarily one would have expected that Justice Uzokwe be suspended from office as Chief Judge, pending the conclusion of these ongoing investigations into the financial records of the Judiciary, as she has continued to use her office to deal with staff that may be helpful in the investigation and has even been doctoring and concealing available records. This obviously is not in the interest of Abia State, as the money involved in these ongoing investigations runs into hundreds of millions of Naira, which funds could be traced to Abuja where they have been expended in the acquisition of choice properties.
Since Justice Uzokwe’s assumption of office, the Legal Year ceremony which hitherto costs about One Million Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N 1,500,000) – Three Million Naira (N 3, 000, 000) has been jacked up to Seven Million Naira (N 7, 000, 000) – Eight Million Naira (N 8, 000, 000). Evidence abound of connivance by Justice Uzokwe, her erstwhile secretary and a particular Judge who chairs almost all Judiciary Committees of making fictitious returns bothering on unsubstantiated hotel bills and donations to the church and priests over Legal Year expenditure. Burial of Judiciary staff has since her assumption of office been turned into a business enterprise as no month passes without a demand from Justice Uzokwe from the State Government for money to conduct valedictory Court sessions. Justice Uzokwe’s minimum cost for each valedictory session is Three Million Naira (N 3, 000, 000).
No Chief Judge in the history of Abia State and even in Nigeria has embarked on as many overseas trips as Justice Uzokwe within the past Two (2) years. Facts are that Justice Uzokwe engages the services of her aides to source from the internet Judicial Conferences taking place worldwide for purposes of application to the State Governor for sponsorship. These conferences have no bearing whatsoever with justice delivery in Abia State and do not impact on the lives of the people. Rather they are means of satisfying Justice Uzokwe’s profligate yearnings/passion. She has within the past Two (2) years travelled to Canada, United States of America (severally), United Arab Emirates, India, United Kingdom, South Korea, Bulgaria – all at great cost to the tax payers of Abia State. While she embarks on all these overseas trips, she equally dispenses few trips to her cronies in order to maintain their loyalty and humiliate Judges who are not in her good books.
MORBID HATRED FOR ABIA STATE AND HER CITIZENS
Justice Uzokwe has never hidden her hatred and disdain for the people of Abia State, despite the fact that this State has provided her with the means of sustenance and livelihood all through her adult life. She displays her hatred for Abians both in words and actions. It is common knowledge that she has severally referred to Abians derisively as “Ndi Abia, ndi nzuzu, ndi n’amaro ife”. She has equally in her reply to a petition against her addressed to the National Judicial Council (NJC) referred to Abians as “uncircumcised”. She has equally in reply to another petition also addressed to the NJC derogatorily written“That is Abia for you”. Justice Uzokwe’s hatred for Abia State can be deciphered from the following actions –
Destruction of the official quarters of the Chief Judge:Prior to the appointment of Justice Uzokwe as Chief Judge in 2015, Abia State had an Official Quarters for the Chief Judge of the State. The quarters of the Chief Judge is situate along Okpara Avenue and very close to the exit gate of the Government House, Umuahia. It is a fenced, gated and expansive compound with a very big house consisting of a large basement. Justice S.N. Imo resided in that premises comfortably with his large family for the entire period he was the Chief Judge, up to his retirement. Chief Judge Nnenna Otti had a brief tenure of six months as Chief Judge and preferred to come to work from Owerri where she had resided all through her working years. On being appointed Chief Judge, Justice Uzokwe insisted that the premises be upgraded by adding an additional floor whereupon she presented a bill of One Hundred and Seventy Million Naira (N 170, 000, 000) to the Government. The Due Process Office after examining the Bill of Quantities approved Seventy Million Naira (N 70, 000, 000) for the renovation. Justice Uzokwe rejected the involvement of the Ministry of Housing in the renovation works and insisted on her chosen architect for the renovation, who eventually turned out to be an Anambra State citizen practicing in Lagos State. Government obliged her and gave her an initial sum of Twenty Million Naira (N 20, 000, 000) to commence the project. More than One (1) year after receipt of the Twenty Million Naira (N 20, 000, 000), Justice Uzokwe has only removed the roof to the building, carted away all the furniture and fittings in the premises left by the last occupier and has left the premises in that state for over Twelve (12) months, while insisting that she must get the entire sum provided for the project before commencement. Presently, Abia State has no official Chief Judge’s quarters to the delight and comfort of Justice Uzokwe, which fact she uses as a tool to blackmail the Government and people of Abia State. In addition, she continues to draw money from Government coffers for hotel accommodation in Umuahia, while it is public knowledge that she commutes from her residence in Osisioma to Umuahia for work.
Conversion of a Judgment debt of Eight Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N 850,000) to One Hundred and Nine Million Naira (N 109 million): Sometime in 2009, Justice Uzokwe awarded judgment in the sum of Eight Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N 850,000) against Ikwuano Local Government A in favour of one Austify Nigeria Ltd who claimed he supplied stationeries to Ikwuano Local Government Council. This judgment sum of Eight Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N 850,000) gave birth few years later, without any justifiable reason whatsoever to a Garnishee Proceeding in the sum of One Hundred and Nine Million Naira (N 109 million). Justice Uzokwe has employed all tricks in her bag including coercing Government officials and bank officials into paying Twenty Million Naira (N 20 million) to the said Austify Nigeria Ltd, who has not given up in their bid to defraud the State Government, with the tacit connivance of Justice Uzokwe. The One Hundred and Nine Million Naira (N109 million) Garnishee Proceedings emanating out of a Judgment debt of Eight Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N850,000) is a bare fraud orchestrated by Justice Uzokwe even when the initial Judgment sum of Eight Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira (N 850,000) is subject of a pending appeal at the court of Appeal Owerri Division.
Justice Uzokwe has since assumption of office as the Chief Judge refused to convene a single Administration of Justice meeting: This meeting is customarily a quarterly meeting held at the Headquarters of the Judiciary with the Attorney – General and Commissioner for Justice, the Director of Public Prosecution, the Commissioner of Police, the Comptroller of Prisons, select Judges especially Heads of Judicial Divisions and some Magistrates in attendance. This quarterly meeting is aimed at appraising criminal justice delivery in the State with a view to ameliorating obstacles and bottlenecks on criminal justice administration in the State. It aids in decongestion of prisons and fostering cooperation and collaboration amongst the vital organs engaged in adjudication of criminal matters. The Chairman and convener of the meeting is the Chief Judge. However, since Justice Uzokwe assumed office, she has failed or neglected to convene this meeting to the detriment of justice administration in the State.
Denial of IGR to the State Government – Since assumption of office, she has not signed any Probate Certificate for the Ministry of Justice, despite several applications to her office by the Director of Estates and Trust. This has resulted in loss of revenue that would have accrued to the State by way of Estate Management Fees. She has not administered any Justice of the Peace regime. Several applications by Abia citizens to be appointed as Justices of the Peace have been left unattended thereby denying Government revenue accruing therefrom.
Non – existence of Family Court in Abia State:
Most States in the country including Abia State have adopted the provisions of the Child Rights Act, as enacted by the National Assembly as State Law. Abia State has for several years passed its Child Rights Law, which provides for the establishment of a Family Court to give effect to that law. Justice Uzokwe has been on the saddle as the head of the Judiciary for over Two (2) years and neglected/refused to dedicate One (1) of the Courts in the State as a family Court, in order to ensure that the State and her citizens do not benefit from the creation of that Court. The effect of this state of affairs has rendered impotent the Child Rights Law as passed by the State House of Assembly and assented to by the Governor. Rather than establish a Family Court, she and her erstwhile dismissed Chief Registrar, Mrs. Akwiwu (even after her dismissal from service) have heightened activities at what they call ‘Adoption Court’ – a place they have designated as adoption Court, which investigations have shown that the so – called adoption Court is a goldmine targeted at persons living abroad and desirous of adopting young citizens of Abia State. Operations in the adoption Court are closely guarded and supervised between Justice Uzokwe and her erstwhile Chief Registrar, even after the said Chief Registrar was dismissed from Service. The Probate section of the High Court which ordinarily should be yielding revenue to the State has since her emergence as Chief Judge become a self – serving institution to Justice Uzokwe and her cronies. All the experienced staff in that department have been posted out, making way for her preferred staff whose allegiance is only to Justice Uzokwe and not to the State.
Justice Uzokwe’s Role in the Non Existence of the National Industrial Court in Abia State – Justice Uzokwe has refused to provide a Court Hall for the establishment of a Division of the National Industrial Court in Abia State, despite repeated requests by the President of the National Industrial Court, and a written approval by the State Governor to that effect, leaving Abia State as one of the few States (if not the only State) in the Country without a Division of the National Industrial Court. This is in her continued bid to exact hardship on Abia Citizens and Abia based legal practitioners, who have to travel long distances, especially to Owerri, Imo State, in order to have access to the National Industrial Court. The establishment of a National Industrial Court in the State, will not only give citizens of the State easy access to Justice, like citizens of other States, but will also provide jobs for its citizens. Justice Uzokwe who does not want any good thing in Abia State has refused to make available one of the vacant Court halls to the National Industrial Court, which gesture would have yielded to the building of a permanent Industrial Court Complex in the State.
Ill treatment to sundry Judiciary staff – Judges, Magistrates and other Staff:
Prior to Justice Uzokwe’s emergence as Chief Judge, Magistrates in Abia State had a thrift contribution amongst themselves. Justice Uzokwe truncated the arrangement and forcefully withheld funds in their thrift account thereby denying contributors access to their funds without any justifiable reason. Several of these contributors and their families have been subjected to untold hardship and deprivation due to the incalcitrant attitude of Justice Uzokwe to yield to their several pleas for the release their money.
The check – out dues of the Magistrates’ Association and JUSUN have been holed up in the Judiciary account at the instance and directive of Justice Uzokwe.
Fellow Judges have been subjected to serial humiliation, verbal abuse and hardship in their bid to get Justice Uzokwe perform the simplest administrative duty of signing and sending their quarterly returns to the National Judicial Council in Abuja.
Even the dead amongst Justice Uzokwe’s colleagues is undeserving of any modicum of respect or regard from her. Justice A.C Chioma, a young and vibrant Judge in the Abia State Judiciary died suddenly in early December, 2017, while Justice Uzokwe was in her usual manner outside the country in far away South Korea. Since her return and up till date, Justice Uzokwe has not found it worthwhile to summon a meeting of Judges of the Abia State Judiciary to formally announce the demise of Justice A.C Chioma to them and also pay a condolence visit to the family of their fallen colleague.
Recently, Justice Uzokwe issued an imperial decree/directive which no Chief Judge in the history of our State or the country has ever done, by directing all Judges in Abia State including Heads of Judicial Divisions and Registrars of Courts in the State to forward to her Chambers on filing, all Suits involving Government Ministries, Agencies or arms of Government in the State. All political matters are also to be forwarded to Justice Uzokwe amongst others. The purport of this directive which is in clear breach of the High Court Law of Abia State is to emphasize the imperial stature Justice Uzokwe occupies over her fellow Judges.
Another clear case of Justice Uzokwe’s disdain for Abia State and her citizens is her sour relationship with Justices of higher Courts who are of Abia origin or are retired Judges:
Justice Uzokwe since her emergence of Chief Judge has never considered it worthwhile to invite our revered Justices of the Appellate Courts and retired Judges to ceremonial events of the Judiciary. It is a known fact that rather than Justice Uzokwe invite these Justices to events of the High Court, she would circulate letters to virtually every jurisdiction of Courts in the country even when these invitations are not honoured. She takes pride in deriding the only Justice of the Supreme Court produced by Abia State, in the person of Justice Ogbuagu, JSC, and only recently verbally abused and embarrassed this legal icon at the Owerri airport. The scene was witnessed by a serving Judge in the Abia State Judiciary.
Justice Uzokwe has no consideration whatsoever in the area of welfareof both serving and retired Justices. This is so much so that almost Twelve (12) months after the retirement of Justice Stella Nwakanma, who was the head of the Judiciary in acting capacity for more than Six (6) months, no valedictory Court session has been held in her honour. Justice Uzokwe has both as a serving Judge and Chief Judge ensured that she benefited from every Government exercise on provision of vehicles to the Judiciary. She is so inconsiderate and insatiable in her demand for luxury that at the last count, she has about seven luxury vehicles in her premises while fellow Judges who ordinarily should enjoy the same terms and conditions of service as Judicial Officers have barely two cars.
While she continues in her globe – trotting and frivolous trips to every country in the world, she has continued to discriminate against some marked Judges in the Abia State Judiciary who, despite having served the State for more than Ten (10) years, and above have not had the privilege of leaving the shores of this country.
All the good things in the Judiciary are meant for Justice Uzokwe. It is common knowledge that the big generator in the High Court premises can only be switched on when Justice Uzokwe is in the premises and presently, she has disconnected all other Court halls in the High Court Headquarters from the main power supply.
JUSTICE UZOKWE’S BIZARRE, WEIRD AND UNCONVENTIONAL ADJUDICATORY STYLE
It is common knowledge that any legal practitioner or litigant appearing before Justice Uzokwe on a given date should liken himself to one going to a battlefront. Her style of adjudication is not only unconventional, unorthodox but also un – procedural. She spends Ninety Percent (90%) of the Court time raining abuses on lawyers, litigants, witnesses and even police officers. It is on record that the Aba Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association boycotted her Court in Aba for over Six (6) months for smashing the phone of a lawyer in Court and asking the lawyer to kneel down with his hands raised in Court for not switching off his phone. Ninety Percent (90%) of Law Officers in the Abia State Ministry of Justice have resolved not to appear before her, due to the verbal assault she rains on them each time they appear in her Court.
While the Nigerian Constitution and the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers provide that copies of Judgments delivered by a Court should be made available to parties not later than Fourteen (14) days after delivery of such judgment, Justice Uzokwe has a tradition of not making her Judgments available to litigants several months after delivery in order to deny the losing parties their right of appeal. Justice Uzokwe is known for manipulating her Court records to suit her whims and caprices especially when she has an interest in a pending matter before her. She does this with impunity and in the process, turns the law upside down to meet her selfish ends. Justice Wachukwu of blessed memory, an indigene of Abia State, was dismissed as a Judicial Officer for an alleged manipulation of Court records. Surprisingly, despite a subsisting Court of Appeal Judgment in the case of Ajakaiye .v. State delivered on Friday, the 5th day of December, 2014, wherein the Court of Appeal came to a finding that Justice Uzokwe manufactured evidence in order to convict an innocent man, she has continued to preside not only as a sitting Judge, but also as the Head of Abia State Judiciary, where she even has more powers to manipulate the system and visit injustice on the citizens of Abia State. Some of the excerpts from the Ajakaiye Judgment would drive home the fact that Justice Uzokwe even on the strength of this Judgment alone is not a fit and proper person to preside over the affairs of citizens of Abia State as a Judge or even to head her Judiciary. These excerpts are as follows –
“ …The learned trial Judge even went further to manufacture or conjecture evidence from her imagination in her apparent desperate search for reasons to do away with the Appellant, when she said
“I am satisfied that the car was pushed into the river by
the Accused person who had to leave the driver’s door open and the window wound down in order to be able to turn the steering wheel and the car to the direction of the river and then pushed it into the river with the deceased strapped with her seat belt and unconscious”
“Of course, none of the above findings by the trial Judge was based on evidence before the Court as they appeared to be mere wishful thinking, speculations and/or imaginations of the learned trial Judge to justify her conviction of the Appellant!”
“This, to say the least, is very sad and unfortunate. A trial judge must not been seen to descend into the arena of conflict in a trial, to generate evidence or facts not canvassed or adduced by the witnesses or apparent on the face of the records before him to decide a case. A Court is never allowed to make a case for any of the parties before it different from what a party presents to the Court”
“But I think what the learned trial Court considered as constituting such very strong, cogent, complete and irresistible conclusion that Appellant was the perpetrator of the deadly crime, turned out to be the conjectures and speculations or deductions by the learned trial Court, from a very bare and undisguised stories of persecution and evil scheme by the family members of the deceased wife of the Appellant, to hold him for the death of their sister”
“Sadly, the trial Court elected to believe a lie and even actively worked to promote the lie; that Appellant quarreled with the wife and threatened to kill her, if she would not allow him to take custody of their children (in the event of their divorce, which was never contemplated, except in the imagination of the deceased siblings, and the story only came up after the demise of the Appellant’s wife!)
The trial judge even made the story more ridiculous, when she, on her own, supplied another evidence on how the car got into the river; that the Appellant had attacked the wife with fatal blows on the face and head, to the point of unconsciousness before pushing the car with her, strapped in her seat belt, into the river! Haba!”
No State in this country would allow a character who has been described in the above manner by Justices of the Court of Appeal, to continue to preside in a Court of law in their State, what more heading their Judiciary.
MENTAL HEALTH OF JUSTICE UZOKWE
More disturbing and of great concern in the character trait and disposition of Justice Uzokwe, is the yet unchallenged and uncontested news report of a tabloid, Newsbearer Weekly (Magazine) in Vol. 8 No. 9 and Vol. 14 No. 11 published on May 12, 2008 and July 23, 2012 respectively. These Two (2) publications made allusions to the mental state of Justice Uzokwe stating emphatically that she is a psychiatric patient. The publication gave details of the cost of her treatment, the names and addresses of her doctors and her prescription. This information according to the magazine was made available in the course of Justice Uzokwe’s divorce proceedings. Five (5) years after the said publication, Justice Uzokwe or her medical doctors have not denied the contents of these publications. Neither have they taken any legal action against the known publishers. Justice Uzokwe’s combative and aggressive behavior, especially her serial emotional outbursts both in private and in public give credence to the content of this magazine. It could be dangerous to allow Justice Uzokwe or somebody with her character traits and medical history to continue to preside or superintend over the affairs of other citizens especially in the capacity in which she does presently.
PARTICIPATION IN PARTISAN POLITICS
It is unheard of for a Judicial Officer, more so the Chief Judge of a State, to exhibit an inclination to a political party. The All Progressive Congress (APC) for the past One (1) month has been advertising their scheduled South East mega rally to be held in Umuahia, capital of Abia State. It was widely advertised that both the President and the Vice President were to lead the APC team to Abia State for this mega rally.
On Monday, the 8th day of January 2018, Justice Uzokwe cancelled a scheduled meeting of Judges of Abia State Judiciary to enable her welcome the President, who was billed to be at the APC rally. The message which cancelled the scheduled Judges’ meeting read as follows –
“My lords, I am directed by the Honorable Chief Judge to respectfully inform you that the attention of the Chief Judge has been drawn to a State visit by His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to God’s own State, Abia State. As the head of Judiciary, the honorable CJ shall be required to be amongst the welcoming party. Unfortunately this has coincided with the scheduled emergency meeting for Tuesday. The rescheduled date will be communicated to your Lordships in due course”
The questions to be asked from the contents of this message are –
* Who drew the attention of the Chief Judge to the visit by the President?
* When did President’s attendance to his party’s mega rally turn to a State visit?
* Who constituted the welcome party for the President to which Justice Uzokwe claimed membership?
We have it on good authority that Justice Uzokwe’s was invited by her political allies, with a promise that she will meet with the President and Vice President in order to enhance her political fortunes. It is intriguing that Justice Uzokwe sees herself as the head of the Judiciary that is not an arm of the Abia State Government. Even when the Governor of the State and Government of the State did not arrange a welcoming party for the President, who was supposed to be a guest of his party members, Justice Uzokwe thinks otherwise. Justice Uzokwe’s inclination towards partisan politics as could be seen from the referenced text message becomes more worrisome in the light of a recent circular to all Judges, heads of Judicial Divisions and Registrars to submit all political cases throughout the State to her office. This move by Justice Uzokwe to get all political and Government cases to her Court becomes more worrisome in the light of renewed political activities that will sooner or later attract series of pre – election matters. This State cannot subject itself at this moment to the whims and caprices of Justice Uzokwe who now has a known political inclination.
All patriotic Abians and indeed the peoples’ representatives (Hon. House of Assembly members) must rise to the occasion at this critical time to save Abia State Judiciary from its downward slide and restore the dignity and respect of that important arm of Government. We must make resort to our extant Laws, especially the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) wherein various provisions have been made for the peoples’ representative i.e the House of Assembly to act patriotically and decisively in situations such as the one we find ourselves.
We therefore urge the Abia State House of Assembly, as a matter of extreme urgency, to invoke her powers as provided for in Section 292 (1) (a) (ii) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as Amended) in the interest of the protection of the administration of Justice in Abia State.
For purposes of clarity, Section 292 (1) (a) (ii) provides –
292. (1) “A judicial officer shall not be removed from his office or appointment before his age of retirement except in the following circumstances –
(a)(ii) Chief Judge of a State, Grand Kadi of a Sharia Court of Appeal or President of a Customary Court of Appeal of a State, by the Governor acting on an address supported by two-thirds majority of the House of Assembly of the State,
Praying that he be so removed for his inability to discharge the functions of his office or appointment (whether arising from infirmity of mind or of body) or for misconduct or contravention of the Code of Conduct.”
THE TIME TO ACT AND TO REMOVE JUSTICE THERESA UZOAMAKA UZOKWE IS NOW, BEFORE OUR SITUATION BECOMES IRREDEEMABLE.
Dr. A.C.B Agbazuere Esq. O.O Nkume Esq.
Executive Director Director Legal Services