Suspended Abia State Chief Judge, Justice Theresa Uzokwe has protested against her removal.
Reacting through her counsel, Carol Ajie, she described her ‘purported’ suspension by the State House of Assembly as “stage-managed and atrocious.”
According to Ajie, Justice Uzokwe did not receive a copy of the petition dated January 22, 2018, upon which the state assembly removed her.
“Shouldn’t she have been served so that we could look at it and respond to it?” she asked.
The counsel disclosed that the speaker of the assembly, the state attorney general and their co-travelers were hoarding information from her client.
She faulted the lawmakers, which cited section 292(1)(ii) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 in performing the act.
She explained that on the contrary, the attorney general, with the intent to relegate the CJ’s office, trampled on her roles and responsibilities to the extent that some of her official duties were tarnished.
According to the lawyer, the CJ’s problem had started shortly after her appointment when some people complained that she is an indigene of Anambra, and not Abia State.
She explained: “Justice Uzokwe is the Chairman of the Abia State Judicial Service Commission (JSC) by virtue of her office. But, the state Attorney General, Kalu Umeh (SAN), set up a parallel JSC, which purported to have terminated the appointment of the Chief Registrar of the state High Court, Elizabeth Akwiwu-Chukwu, and appointed Ben Anyanwu as new chief registrar.
“Furthermore, posting of magistrates from one jurisdiction to another within the state by the CJ was resisted and unlawfully countermanded by the AG. This was done on the ‘authority’ of his parallel JSC between November and December 2017.”
She alleged that the entire Abia State executive, hand-in-glove with the state House of Assembly staged the “suspension.”
Meanwhile, a Lagos-based rights group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has threatened to sue the state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu over the suspension.
A statement by the group’s Deputy Director, Timothy Adewale, urged the governor to “immediately withdraw the illegal appointment of Justice Obisike Orji as the Acting Chief Judge.”
The Speaker of the House of Assembly Chikwendu Kalu, had on Friday, passed a resolution suspending Justice Uzokwe.
The House also set up an eight-man ad-hoc committee to investigate the allegations of misconduct leveled against her.
SERAP enjoined the executive and judicial arms to abolish laws that grant double emoluments and large severance benefits to ex-governors, rather than “denigrating the judiciary and displaying contempt for the rule of law.”
“An independent judiciary is the foundation upon which the entire structure of the constitution rests. The suspension of Justice Uzokwe
is a serious threat to this independence and must be speedily addressed,” the statement added.