HON JUSTICE THERESA UZOAMAKA UZOKWE
Barely 48 hours after the bitter confrontation between Abia state substantive Chief Judge, Justice Theresa Uzoamaka Uzokwe and the Chief Registrar, Benson Anya, the Abia House of Assembly, Friday suspended the Chief Judge of the state, Hon. Justice Theresa Uzokwe, for alleged acts of tyranny and gross misconduct.
This was following a petition presented on the floor of the House on matter of urgent public importance by the member representing Ukwa west, Mr Mezie Nwubani, and dated January 22 with the caption “Justice Theresa Uzokwe’s unending acts of tyranny, infamy, gross misconduct and incompetence: Urgent need to save the administration of justice in Abia.”
The petition jointly signed by Dr. Anthony C. Agbazuere and Mr Obinna Nkume, the Executive Director and Director, Legal Services of the Global Centre for Peace and Justice, an Umuahia-based non-governmental organization, had accused the CJ of acts of lawlessness and disrespect to state authorities, denigration of the office of the CJ, financial malfeasance and embezzlement of funds and “morbid hatred for Abia and her citizens,” among others.
Citing the provision of Sec 292 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, Nwubani evoked the empowers the House to investigate the allegations leveled against the CJ, while the member representing Isialangwa North, Chief Martins Azubuike, called on the house to be properly guided by section 36 of the Constitution, which he said provided for fair hearing, in handling the petition.
Following a motion by the Deputy Majority Leader of the House, Chief Solomon Akpulonu, and seconded by the Minority Leader, Chief Abraham Oba, the Honourable members urged the house to set up an ad hoc committee to investigate the allegations, while calling for the suspension of the CJ and appointment of an acting CJ by the state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu.
In the resolution, the Speaker, Chief Chikwendu Kalu, announced the suspension of the CJ and mandated the governor to appoint an acting CJ “in order not to create a lacuna within the justice system in the state”, while also announcing the constitution of an eight-member committee, headed by the member representing Obinwa West, Hon A C Thomas Nkoro, to carry out the investigation of the CJ.
The committee had seven days within which to carry out its investigation and report its findings to the House.
Meanwhile, following the directive of the Abia State House of Assembly, the state Governor, Okezie Ikpeazu that same day, swore-in a new Ag chief judge has been sworn -in in Abia state following the suspension of the former state chief judge, Justice Theresa Uzokwe by the House.
The Ag state Chief Judge is Hon justice Obisike Orji.
Speaking at the swearing in ceremony at the executive council chamber of the Government House, Umuahia, the Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu said that the swearing ceremony is in obedience to the constitution of the country having received the resolution of the state House of Assembly a few hours ago suspending the former chief judge of the state.
He said that in line with the constitution, the next in rank to the former chief judge was sworn in.
Dr Ikpeazu reminded the Ag chief judge that he has a task to perform to restore the confidence of the people in the judiciary and hoped that Abia state will be better for it in the days ahead.
Responding, the Ag chief judge Hon justice Obisike Orji who promised not to disappoint the confidence placed on him affirmed that he has a duty to restore the confidence of the people to the judiciary and the justice delivery system of the state and pledged to do all to ensure that the state moves forward
Judiciary sources had accused the suspended CJ of high handedness, withholding of staff promotions for over two years, using abusive language on staff of the judiciary, as well as meting out corporal punishment to her staff.
All efforts to get her comment proved abortive.