The Crises rocking the Abia State Judiciary on Wednesday took another dimension following the announcement of the Suspension of the Newly Inaugurated Acting Chief Judge of Abia State Justice Obisike Orji by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu.
It will be recalled that on Friday January 26th 2018,the Abia State House of Assembly in an emergency sitting Suspended the Chief Judge of Abia State Justice Theresa Uzokwe over allegations leveled against her by a Civil Society Group “Center For Equity and Justice” of highhandedness and abuse of Office.
Following the recommendation of the Abia State House of Assembly,Dr Okezie Ikpeazu,the Governor of Abia State appointed Justice Obisike Orji and subsequently inaugurated him as the New Acting Chief Judge of Abia State.
But The National Judicial Council (NJC) on Wednesday declared the removal of the Chief Judge of Abia State by the state’s House of Assembly as illegal.
The National Judicial Council under the Chairmanship of the Honourable, Mr. Justice Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, GCON, at its Emergency Meeting which held today, 31st January, 2018, considered the recent suspension of the Abia State Chief Judge, Hon. Mr. Justice T. U. Uzokwe and the swearing-in of Hon. Mr. Justice Obisike Orji as the Acting Chief Judge of the State by Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu and agreed that the decision to suspend the Chief Judge and the swearing-in of an Acting Chief Judge without the input of the National Judicial Council is unconstitutional, null and void.
“In view of the foregoing, Council resolved as follows:
1) The suspension of the Chief Judge of Abia State by the State House of Assembly without a prior recommendation by the National Judicial Council violates the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
2) Consequently, the subsequent act of appointing and swearing-in of Hon. Mr. Justice Obisike Orji as the Acting Chief Judge is invalid for being unconstitutional.
3) Furthermore, the conduct of Hon. Mr. Justice Obisike Orji in presenting himself to be sworn-in raises potential questions of misconduct that Council is now looking into.
4) Council therefore resolved to query and suspend the Hon. Mr. Justice Obisike Orji pending the outcome of its investigation.
In the prevailing circumstance, whereby the National Judicial Council has directed the Chief Judge not to perform his duties, and the next most senior Judge is suspended, the NJC directed the Governor of Abia State to appoint Hon. Mr. Justice Onuoha Arisa Kalu Ogwe as the acting Chief Judge