The National Judicial Council (NJC) has suspended the newly sworn in acting Chief Judge of Abia State, Obisike Orji, and declared the suspension of Hon. Justice T. U. Uzokwe, Chief Judge, Abia State unconstitutional.
The council, after an emergency meeting on Wednesday, held 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 a statement released by the council, the body “noted that its attention had been drawn to the crisis in Abia State Judiciary by petitions written against Hon. Mr. Justice T.U. Uzokwe and the one written by the Chief Judge against Hon. Mr. Justice C. U. Okoroafor, but in the course of the investigation by the committee’s set up by Council, some elderly Judicial Officers of Abia State Judiciary waded in and pleaded with the committees to allow the matter to be resolved amicably by them, which was granted by Council at its plenary”.
NJC at its meeting resolved that:
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Council therefore resolved to query and suspend the Hon. Mr. Justice Obisike Orji pending the outcome of its investigation.”
“In view of the recent escalation, Council, in the interest of the smooth administration of justice in Abia State, resolved to direct the Chief Judge, Hon. Mr. Justice T. U. Uzokwe, to stay away from duties pending Council’s final decision after consideration of the report of its panels.”
“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 governor of Abia State shall appoint Hon. Mr. Justice Onuoha Arisa Kalu Ogwe, the next most senior Judge to act as the Chief Judge of Abia State, pending Council’s final resolution of the matter.”