Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State to immediately withdraw his “illegal appointment” of Justice Obisike Orji as the acting Chief Judge of the state and restore Justice Theresa Uzokwe, who was removed by the State House of Assembly. The House of Assembly had on Friday passed a resolution suspending Justice Uzokwe as the state’s chief judge. The speaker, Mr. Chikwendu Kalu, while reading the resolution, set up 8-man ad-hoc committee to investigate allegations of misconduct against the judge, and mandated Governor Ikpeazu to appoint an acting chief judge pending the completion of the investigation by the committee.
But SERAP in a statement today by its deputy director Timothy Adewale said rather than using their executive and legislative powers to promote good governance and abolish laws granting double emoluments and large severance benefits to former governors, the Abia State government is denigrating the judiciary and displaying contempt for the rule of law. According to SERAP, “The purported suspension of Justice Uzokwe violates sections 292(1)(a)(ii) and 21(d) Part 11 of the Third Schedule to the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended), and amounts to a blatant attack on the integrity and independence of the judiciary. No judge anywhere in Nigeria can be removed without the involvement of the National Judicial Council (NJC), no matter the level of allegations of misconduct against that judge.”
“Governor Ikpeazu must rescind his illegal appointment of a new chief judge, and the Abia State House of Assembly must withdraw the apparently politically motivated suspension of Justice Uzokwe without further delay. Doing so will be entirely consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the case of Raliat Elelu-Habeed & anor v Attorney General of the Federation and Attorney General of Kwara State (2012).