At its 85th meeting on March 14, the National Judicial Council (NJC) recommended the compulsory retirement of the Chief Judge of Abia state, Justice Theresa Uzokwe, and Justice Obisike Orji of the State High Court to Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu.
This was contained in a statement on Thursday by the NJC spokesman, Soji Oye.
Chief Judge Uzokwe: Petitions brought against her by the Abia state Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice, Umeh Kalu (SAN) were investigated by two investigative committees set up by the NJC.
- Uzokwe was accused of working with a parallel Judicial Service Commission instead of the one constituted by the state government.
- Uzokwe was also accused of misapplying herself in a suit in which she erroneously delivered judgement in the sum of N825,000 in favour of a litigant, but went ahead to sign a garnishee order of N109.6 million. A garnishee order is a common form of enforcing a judgment debt against a creditor in which the court directs a third party (like a bank) who is in possession of money belonging to the judgement debtor to instead pay the money to the judgment creditor.
Justice Orji: His offence, according to the NJC, was that when the Abia state government unconstitutionally sacked the chief judge, it swore him in as acting chief judge. He was warned by the NJC not to accept the illegal offer by the state government but he refused. The NJC viewed his action as colluding in, and aiding an unconstitutional process, hence his compulsory retirement.
Other decisions taken by the NJC:
1. It issued stern warnings to Justices S. E. Aladetoyinbo of the FCT High Court and Olusola Williams of the Lagos State High Court for judicial misconduct.
“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… Council would have sanctioned the Judge more severely but had to take into account the fact that aspects of the case could be appealed.
“The council also seriously warned Justice Olusola 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),’’ the NJC spokesman said.
2. It resolved to empanel three investigative committees to investigative petitions against one Justice of Supreme Court and two State Chief Judges. It did not name the judges being investigated.
3. It dismissed petitions against various Justices either for lack of merit, lack of evidence of misconduct, being subjudice or that the subject of such petitions were matters for appeal.
The dismissed petitions include those against Justices Abdu Aboki, Theresa Abadua and Ahmed Belgore all of the Court of Appeal; Justices John Tsoho, Ayo Emmanuel, Sabiu Yahusa, Zainab Abubakar, B. O. Quadri of the Federal High Court; Justices A. N. Ubaka and B. B. Kanyip of National Industrial Court; Justices Bello Kawu, S. C. Orji, A. N. Talba of the FCT High Court; Justice K. C. Nwankpa of High Court Abia State, Justice D. A. Onyefulu of High Court Anambra State, Justice W. I. A. Effiong of High Court Akwa-Ibom State, Justice A. M. Ikpambese of High Court Benue State, Justice G. E. Gbemre of High Court Delta State, Justice A. O. Onovo of High Court Enugu State, Justice Idi Apollos of High Court Gombe State, Justice G. O. Ogunsanya of High Court Ogun State, Justice A. B. Abdulkarim of High Court Osun State, Justice K. A. Ojiako of High Court Imo State, and Justices A. M. Lawal, L. A. Okunnu and L. B. Lawal Akapo, of High Court Lagos State.
4. It advised Justice J. E. Ikede of Delta State High Court and Justice Yusuf Halilu of FCT High Court to be more careful in the course of their judicial duties.
5. It referred a petition brought by Mr. Adesina Okuneye against Justice Mwada Balami of the FCT High Court to the Police to investigate. Okuneye accused the judge of collecting a N5 million bribe meant for granting of a bail to an accused person. “Council decided that the petition should be put in abeyance until the outcome of the investigation by the Police,’’ Oye said.
6. It recommended 60 Judicial Officers to governors of 24 states for appointment as High Court Judges, Sharia Court Kadis and Customary Court of Appeal Judges.