Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The harmer of the National Judicial Council (NJC), on Thursday, fell on the suspended Chief Judge of Abia State, Justice Theresa Uzokwe, who was recommended the compulsory retirement by the Council.
She was not alone as the Council equally recommended the compulsory retirement of Justice Obisike Orji who, it held, was illegally appointed by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State to take over as Acting Chief Judge of the state after Justice Uzokwe was suspended from office for engaging in judicial misconduct.
The NJC, under the Chairmanship of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, said it recommended Justice Uzokwe’s mandatory retirement, following the findings of two investigative committees it constituted to looking into petitions against her.
In a statement by the Director of Information at the NJC, Mr. Soji Oye, the Council said “The committees investigated petitions against her by Umeh Kalu, SAN, Attorney-General/Commissioner for Justice of Abia State, alleging illegal constitution and working with a parallel Judicial Service Commission instead of the one constituted by the State Governor and confirmed by the House of Assembly.
“Hon. Mr Justice Uzokwe was also found to have misconducted himself in Suit No. HU/131/2005, wherein he delivered judgement in the sum of N825, 000 (Eight Hundred and Twenty-five Thousand Naira) only in favour of a Litigant, but subsequently signed a garnishee order of N109, 612, 500 (One Hundred and Nine Million, Six Hundred and Twelve Thousand, Five Hundred Naira) only.
“Hon. Mr. Justice Obisike Oji was earlier queried by the Council for allowing himself to be sworn-in as acting Chief Judge, and thereby colluding in, and aiding an unconstitutional process. His reply was unsatisfactory and the Council recommended his compulsory retirement”.
The Council which took the decision at its 85th Meeting held on March 14, said it also considered various petitions written against thirty-one Judicial Officers and resolved to empanel three Committees to investigate the Judges, including petitions against a Justice of Supreme Court and two State Chief Judges.
Besides, the NJC said it decided to refer a petition against Justice Mwada Balami of the FCT High Court to the Police to investigate allegation that he collected N5million bribe to grant an accused person bail.
The allegation was contained in a petition that was written against the judge by one Prince Adesina Okuneye.
“Council decided that the petition should be put in abeyance until the outcome of the investigation by the Police”
“The NJC reprimanded, seriously warned and placed on the Watch List Hon Justice S. E. Aladetoyinbo of the FCT High Court for impropriety in a case between U.L.O. Consultants Ltd v BIL Construction Nigeria Ltd, sequel to a petition by one Uche Luke Okpuno. Council would have sanctioned the Judge more severely but had to take into account the fact that aspects of the case are appealable.
“Council also seriously warned Hon Justice Olusola Ajibike Williams of the Lagos State High Court for grave errors of judgment in her level of involvement in a family business. Council found that the Judge, as a judicial officer, should have been more circumspect and conscious of her office. Council’s sanction was as a result of a petition by Chief Ladi Rotimi-Williams, SAN.
“Petitions against various Justices were dismissed either for lack of merit, lack of evidence of misconduct, being sub judice or that the subject of such petitions were matters for appeal.
“The dismissed petitions were against Hon. Mr. Justices Abdu Aboki, Theresa Abadua and Ahmed Belgore all of the Court of Appeal; Hon. Mr. Justices J. T. Tsoho, Ayo Emmanuel, Sabiu Yahusa, Zainab B. Abubakar, B. O. Quadri of the Federal High Court; Hon. Mr. Justices A. N. Ubaka and B. B. Kanyip of National Industrial Court; Hon. Mr. Justices Bello Kawu, S. C. Orji, A. N. Talba of the FCT High Court; Hon. Mr. Justice K. C. Nwankpa of High Court Abia State; Hon. Mr. Justice D. A. Onyefulu of High Court Anambra State; Hon. Mr. Justice W. I. A. Effiong High Court Akwa-Ibom State; A. M. Ikpambese, High Court Benue State; Hon. Mr. Justice G. E. Gbemre, High Court Delta State; Hon. Mr. Justice A. O. Onovo, High Court Enugu State; Hon. Mr. Justice Idi Apollos, High Court Gombe State; Hon. Mr. Justice G. O. Ogunsanya, High Court Ogun State; Hon. Mr. Justice A. B. Abdulkarim, High Court Osun State; Hon. Mr. Justice K. A. Ojiako, High Court Imo State and Hon. Mr Justices A. M. Lawal, L. A. Okunnu and L. B. Lawal Akapo, High Court Lagos State.
“Council decided to advise Hon. Mr. Justice J. E. Ikede of Delta State High Court and Hon. Mr. Justice Yusuf Halilu of FCT High Court to be more careful in the course of their judicial duties.
“Council at the Meeting also recommended sixty (60) Judicial Officers to Governors of twenty-four (24) for appointment as High Court Judges, Sharia Court Kadis and Customary Court of Appeal Judges”, the statement read.