JUDICIARY CRISIS PT 2: Justice B.A Njemanze and SSG, Anthony Anwukah fingered as catalysts.

The Imo State Chief Judge Justice B.A, Njemanze and the Secretary to the Imo State Government Prof A.G. Anwukah are being suspected of being the cause of the crisis presently rocking the Imo State Judicial Service Commission.

This was the position of many people interviewed on the current crisis in the Imo State Judiciary. It could be recalled that some time last year, Prof  Anwukah wrote to the Imo State Chief Judge who is also the Chairman of the Judicial Service Commission to suspend all the activities of the Imo State Judicial Service Commission. In the letter, the university don cited that it was as a result of what he termed ‘government position to restructure the Imo State Judiciary’. It is being alleged that it was in obedience of the said letter that the

It could be recalled that last year, after the said SSG’s letter, former President of the Imo State Customary Court of Appeal, Rtd. Justice Obasi Iwuagwu, Pioneer Vice Chancellor of the Imo State University Prof. Thomas Ndubizu (O.O.N.), former Majority Leader of the Imo House of Assembly Hon. Nkem Nwankwo, and Barr. Chinedu Igwe were replaced as members of the Imo State Judicial Commission before the expiration of their tenure as members of the commission. The above embattled persons went to an Owerri High Court to challenge their purported removal.

While the case was still in court, the Imo State House of Assembly confirmed other persons to replace the re-instated members of the commission. However, the new members were sworn in and the Chief Judge was said to have started sitting with the new members. Irked by this, the re-instated persons wrote a petition to the National Judicial Council against the Chief Judge for sitting with the new members when their matter was still in court.

Ironically, during the hearing of the case, lawyers who represented the Imo State Government denied in court that the State Government did not direct Prof Anwuka to write any letter to the Chief Judge for the acclaimed bid to restructure the judiciary. However, on the 27th June this year, the High Court in Owerri declared that it was wrong to sack the members and that the embattled members be re-instated.

However, the re-instated members have complained that since their re-instatement almost three months now, that they had not been allowed into their offices and that the Chief Judge had not called any meeting of the commission have not also functioned as members of the commission.

It could also be recalled that Justice A.B.C. Egu retired last year as the President of the Imo State Customary Court of Appeal. Justice Okpara as the most senior judge left in the court was appointed in line with Section 281 (4) of the country’s constitution as the Acting President of the court but it is being speculated that due to the instability in the Imo State Judicial Service Commission, Justice Okpara has not been confirmed after acting for the same post for more than ten months now.

Section 281(4) of the country’s constitution provides that: ‘If the office of President of Customary Court of Appeal of a State is vacant…until a person has been appointed to and has assumed the function of that office, or until the person holding the office has resumed those functions, the Governor of the state shall appoint the most senior judge of the Customary Court of Appeal of the State to perform those function’.

It could be re-called that on the 27th June this year, the High Court in Owerri declared that it was wrong to sack the members and that the embattled members be re-instated. However, feelers from many quarters are saying that the embattled commission members are not yet functioning in office. Incidentally, it was also discovered that the new commission members appointed to replace the formerly sacked ones have also tactically ceased to act as members of the commission. This some say may be because the appointment was declared illegal in the judgment.

The implication of all these is that as at press time, there is no properly constituted Judicial Service Commission in Imo State and nobody knows how long this situation will linger. The irony in the whole saga is that it is said that even the Imo Chief Judge who is also the Chairman of the commission has not called a meeting of the commission since the sacked members were re-instated by the court.

Written by Romanus Eke

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