The Ravaging crises the Abia State Judiciary which has dragged both the Legislature and the Executive is the outcome of Bad Advisers,Writes Promise Uzoma Okoro,an Online Media Strategist.
Former Governor of Abia State Senator Theodore Orji in December 2014 Inaugurated Justice Theresa Uzoamaka Uzokwe as the substantive Chief Judge of Abia State keeping with section 271(5) of the 1999 Constitution .
Even when she acted twice in acting capacity as the Abia State Chief judge,there were series of petitions and advise to the Former Governor not to appoint Justice Uzokwe as the Chief Judge of Abia State because she was from Anambra State.
But the question remains,does your State of Origin stop you from occupying Position in the Judicial arm of Government? The Answer is certainly NO.
The crisis rocking the Abia State Judiciary Service Commission, ABSJSC, deepened in 2017 with two factions emerging and claiming to be the authentic body to run the commission. While one faction is loyal to the State Chief Judge, Justice Theresa Uzokwe, who is the chairman of the Commission, the other faction owes its allegiance to the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Umeh Kalu, SAN.
Trouble started in November 2016 when the State House of Assembly summoned both the commission and the Attorney-General over a petition against a Grade 1 Magistrate Court who had over stayed her retirement age but was not retired by the commission.
After deliberating on the petition, the House indicted the commission and recommended to Governor Okezie Ikpeazu to dissolve the commission and reconstitute it.
The Governor accepted the recommendation of the House, dissolved and reconstituted it with new members. But members of the dissolved commission felt aggrieved and approached an Umuahia High Court and obtained a Ex-parte Order restraining the Governor, the Attorney-General, Abia House of Assembly, the Chief Judge and the Commission from taking any action until hearing of the Motion on Notice.
The Order was made on December 5, 2016 by Justice A. C. Chioma. Since then there has been serious lull in the activities of the commission as the both parties have continued to meet separately. While the members dissolved by the Governor and who went to Court meet at the High Court with the alleged support of the Chief Judge, the newly appointed members meet elsewhere with also alleged support of the Attorney-General.
“Nobody is questioning the authority of the Governor to dissolve, but the Constitution says remove not dissolve. The Constitution makes provision for removal not dissolution and for you to be removed, the person will be given opportunity to defend himself. a senior lawyer and a member of the dissolved members, Augusto Kanu Said.
“There would be no Judicial Service Commission without the Chief Judge being there as Chairman. that is the position of the Law
The Subsequent Removal of Mrs. Elizabeth Akwiwu Chukwu, as Court Registrar and appointment of Benson Anya as New Registrar by the State Judicial Service Commission escalated the the battle between Justice Uzokwe and Chief Ume Kalu.
Although there are Public outcry on the manner the Suspended Chief Judge of Abia State treats Lawyers who appear before her court,her removal by the Abia State House of Assembly generated Multiple Condemnation from the State and the National Level.
Despite all the accusations against the Suspended Chief Judge of Abia State,Justice Theresa Uzokwe has never given any ruling against the Government of Dr Okezie Ikpeazu.
A Governor who is going for Re-election in 2019 shouldn’t have allowed the Commissioner For Justice Chief Ume Kalu,his Adviser on Legal and Judiciary Matters Mr Emeka Eze,a Former Commissioner for Information of Abia State Dr Acb Agbazuere to mislead and misinterpret the provision of section 292(1)(ii) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999.
An advocacy group, Access to Justice, described the suspension of the Chief Judge of Abia State, Theresa Uzokwe, as a “brutal violation” of the Nigerian Constitution.
“It is the NJC that pays all judges’ salaries, the Chief Judge of Abia is not subject to the authority of the Abia State House of Assembly,”
On 18th February 2012, the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision held that under the constitution, a state executive could not remove any judicial officer or a chief judge without the input of the NJC.
Justice Mahmud Mohammed who delivered the lead judgment then said: “It is not difficult to see that for the effective exercise of the powers of removal of a chief judge of a state by the governor and the house of assembly, the first port of call by the governor shall be the NJC.”,this ruling was disregarded whn Governor Okezie Ikpeazu inaugurated Justice Obisike as the acting Chief Judge.
Why the battle is gradually turning into a Political Battle,it is important that the script writers understand the dangers of Playing with the Judicial arm of Government.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu,a beneficiary of the benevolent of the Judiciary shouldnt have meddled into issues which aimed at undermining the Powers of the NJC.
Promise Uzoma Okoro wrote from Umuahia