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Abia judicial service commission dissolution splits members

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Justice Theresa Uzokwe


Members of the Abia State Judicial Service Commission (SJSC) have split into two, following its dissolution by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, in compliance with the resolution of the state House of Assembly, which declared them as incompetent, based on the report of the investigative panel it constituted into the commission’s activities.

The members at pitched in the camps of the state Chief Judge, Justice Theresa Uzokwe, and Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Chief Umeh Kalu, and the scenario is negatively affecting activities of the state judiciary.

The members had rejected the dissolution on the ground that the governor lacked the legal power to do so and consequently refused to vacate office.Their spokesman, Kalu Agbayi, told journalists that there was an attempt by the executive to emasculate the judiciary through the ministry of Justice, alleging: “What we are witnessing today is interference and blatant encroachment on the judiciary. The level of antagonism is so high that we are denied our allowances.

“The SJSC reconstituted by the governor is illegal, because if the stats chief judge is not part of the SJSC, that body is unknown to the law.”He queried why the court order restraining the governor from reconstituting the commission was ignored and government went ahead to appointed and inaugurated new members with the attorney general as its chairman.

But Kalu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), faulted Agbayi’s position, saying the dissolution and reconstitution were done in line with the constitutional provision.He stated: “The governor was within the ambit of the law and has the constitutional power to dissolve the SJSC in line with Section 201 of the 1999 Constitution.”

The commissioner expressed concern over the looming crisis in the state judiciary, which he said has affected the promotion and transfer of magistrates and rendered the Customary Court of Appeal moribund; hence new cases are not coming up.

He also described the said court order as worthless on the basis that it was an ex parte order that expired after 14 days after it was issued and was not renewed by the Judge that issued it.

Kalu stressed that although members of the commission were appointed by the governor, the commission is constitutionally required to be independent; hence the chief judge has no right to appropriate the SJSC.
 

 



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