SOURCE : Factnewsonline
Judges at the Abia State High Court Complex Umuahia and the staff were seen jubilating as the news of the suspension of former Chief Judge of Abia State Justice Theresa Uzokwe, filtered in earlier today.
FACTNEWS Correspondent at Government House Umuahia also observed that judges and Magistrates who were present at the Exco chambers of the government house where the new acting Chief Judge of the state, Justice Obisike Orji, was sworn in burst into celebration immediately after Justice Obisike was sworn in as acting Chief Judge of the state and thereafter trooped into Roots restaurant at Ogurube Layout Umuahia to celebrate what they termed “the final exit of the judicial tyrant”.
Our investigations revealed that the suspension of Justice Uzokwe followed the review of the petition lodged at the state house of assembly by a group called Global Centre For Peace & Justice dated 22nd January 2018.
On receipt of the petition, the judiciary committee of the house recommended the immediate suspension of the Chief Judge over various allegations of misconduct leveled against her and today the State House of Assembly voted in plenary to pass the motion informing the Governor of her suspension pending full investigation of the allegations of gross misconduct leveled against her.
Some of the allegations against Justice Uzokwe by the group include malfeasance and embezzlement of funds of the judiciary, acts of lawlessness and disrespect to state authorities, denigration of the office of the chief judge, conversion of judgement debt of N850,000 to N109m, ill-treatment to sundry judicial staff, sour relationship with justices of higher courts and many others totaling 36 serious allegations that were presented to the State House of Assembly.
Even while these allegations were pending before the House of Assembly, Justice Uzokwe orchestrated an unfortunate drama at the premises of the High Court in Umuahia yesterday where she did not only personally physically lock up the gate of the High Court but also invited Abia State Commissioner of Police to come and arrest the Registrar of the State High Court, Chief Magistrate Anya Benson. At some point, she not only engaged in a public spat with the Registrar she also resisted the Commissioner of Police who was trying to calm her down in the presence of judicial workers. She verbally abused a Chief Magistrate who tried to restrain her from physically attacking Anya Benson and told him to “get out from here”.
One of the judges who was spotted at Roots restaurant celebrating her suspension told our reporter that her removal has saved Abia State Judiciary from the tyrannical and high handed administration of the former Chief Judge who according to him described one of her colleagues as a “junior Judge” during the presentation of official cars to Judges by the Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu.
“All of us are happy that Uzokwu has been removed by the State House of Assembly. That woman has really terrorized the judiciary in Abia State in many ways that time will not permit me to share with you here. Just go to the state High Court at Ikot Ekpene Road and ask all the workers there why they are celebrating her suspension and you will get the picture of what all of us have had to endure because of Uzokwe.”
Reminded that she was only suspended and the process can still be challenged at NJC, the judge who chose to remain anonymous said; “let her go and answer the weighty charges against her and stop misleading people about the legality of her suspension. She cannot be the judge in her own case. The house acted within its powers and merely recommended her suspension for 7 days so as to review the allegations against her and the swearing in of an acting Chief Judge is in order to avoid a vacuum in the administration of justice in the state. A suspension is different from a sack and the legal requirements for her suspension were met”
It will be recalled that the House of Assembly in full plenary voted to suspend her and also gave her 7 days to present her defense against the allegations against her as contained in the petition by the Global Center for Peace and Justice.
In order to avoid a vacuum, the state’s solicitor general swore in Justice Obisike Orji as the acting Chief Judge pending the resolution of the issues before the house of assembly.
When contacted, Abia State Commissioner For Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, told newsmen that the issue was strictly between the judiciary and the legislature.
“As you are aware, there is separation of power between the 3 arms of government. The matter of the suspension of the Chief Judge is strictly between the judiciary and the legislature and the executive branch of government led by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu will only monitor the situation on behalf of the people of Abia State. We are not going to interfere beyond ensuring that while the issues are being sorted out there is no vacuum created in the judiciary to paralyze activities in that arm of government. That is why the acting Chief Judge was sworn in, as expected in law, pending when the suspension order is lifted, vacated or confirmed by the state house of assembly”.
On the allegation that the Attorney General of Abia State, Chief Umeh Kalu, was involved in the process leading to the suspension of Justice Uzokwu, the Commissioner stated that “Chief Umeh Kalu as Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice wears two sleeves. As Attorney General, he is more of a member of the Judicial arm of Government while as Commissioner for Justice he is a member of the executive branch. It is important to note that he is also a statutory member of the State Judicial Council (SJC). His participation in the affairs of the judiciary should be seen within his statutory membership of the SJC and as Attorney General of the State only. I can assure you that Governor Ikpeazu has no reason to interfere with the affairs of the judicial or legislative arm of Government in Abia State beyond performing his statutory duties with respect to those two arms of Government. Please leave us out of the whole thing and allow us to continue to focus on delivering dividends of democracy to Abians of all persuasions”.