Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Second Vice President Onyekachi Ubani and a human rights group, the Access to Justice (A2Justice), yesterday condemned the suspension of Chief Judge of Abia State by the House of Assembly, saying it was illegal.
According to them, only the National Judicial Council (NJC) is constitutionally empowered to discipline or suspend a judge.
A2Justice, in a statement by its Director Joseph Otteh, said the CJ’s suspension amounted to a grievous assault on the Judiciary’s independence.
The Abia House of Assembly purportedly suspended Justice Uzokwe for alleged acts of tyranny and gross misconduct and, by a resolution, asked the Governor to appoint an acting Chief Judge.
A2Justice said the suspension was “a brutal violation of the Constitution, and a deliberate affront to the independence of the Judiciary guaranteed by the Constitution.”
It said the Abia State legislature has no powers to suspend the Chief Judge or any Judge, adding that the lawmakers overreached their powers.
The group said neither the legislature nor the Governor can appoint an acting Chief Judge without NJC’s recommendation.
The group urged the NJC demand the immediate restoration of Justice Uzokwe’s rights and duties as CJ.
“Additionally, the NJC should investigate the state of affairs of the Judiciary in Abia State and clarify that the Chief Judge is providing the sort of leadership that is conducive to the proper administration of justice in the State and take any necessary actions from its findings.
“We urge the NJC to set up a fact-finding Committee to investigate the state of affairs of the Judiciary in Abia State for this purpose,” A2Justice said.
Ubani said the 1999 Constitution does not allow a state House of Assembly to suspend or discipline an erring judge.
“Disciplinary measures against any judge resides with the NJC. It is after the disciplinary measures are taken by the NJC that the Executive and the Legislature can come in to complete the process,” he said.
Ubani said he does not think the Abia House received quality legal advice before it took the decision.
“We desire peace in Abia State including the judiciary; we advice that due process must be employed,” he said.
Follow us on Twitter at @thesignalng
Copyright 2018 SIGNAL. Permission to use portions of this article is granted provided appropriate credits are given to www.signalng.com and other relevant sources.